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Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Montra Tour of Nilgiris - 2012 - The Tour In Review

Even as we were checking out of the hotel in Ooty, there was a twinge of sadness in our hearts. It wasn't like it was the last day of the tour but only two more days were left for the tour to come to a closure.
TFN Class - 2012
The Tour of Nilgiris continues to impress everybody that has been touched by it. The organization that has been streamlined with processes refined over the last five years is undoubtedly biased towards rider satisfaction. Here I try to summarize various aspects of the tour that worked and that could improve. 


The Volunteers: 
First and foremost in making the tour a grand success are the 30 odd volunteers that worked tirelessly to ensure everything ran smoothly. They were the engine that drove everything. With out them, it is impossible to see the tour happening the same way.
The Engine That Moved It All.. The Volunteer Gang of TFN-2012
The Markers:
The marking team is one of the most important guys on a tour like this. Their job is also one of the toughest. We almost never see them. They have to wake up at ungodly hours like 3am in the morning to go and paint the roads so that no rider loses their way. Apart from the first day while getting out of Bangalore, where Anuja jain lost her way and went towards Hosur, none of the riders had any problems with the markings on the road. As the days went by they have become better and much more creative too. The dragon art and Montra logo urging us to open our wings on Upper Bhavani route were just a few examples of how both Adarash Kashyap and Neel D'Souza have owned up the difficult job and made it fun for themselves and the riders with their enthusiasm. Well done boys. I wholeheartedly think they deserve the best volunteer awards they received. Kiran Kumar Raju who did an equally great job last year as marker joined us this year as an all-rounder filling in for many duties. 

Medical Staff:
The work of the medical staff also began much before the actual tour started. They conducted a physio session for the riders before the event as well as a pre-tour briefing. They also organized a workshop for the volunteers on the basics of first aid at Sita Bhateja Hospital. The medical staff was headed by Dr. Prabhakar, Orthopedic Surgeon from Sita Bhateja hospital who took care of fractures, cut injuries, bruises and general health care. Staff nurse Mr. Kinsley was assisting him. Physiotherapy support in terms of offering relief for aches by stretching, Kinesio taping, Cryotherapy, posture corrections etc was done by Spectrum Physio Center lead by Dr. Dhanajeyan Jayavel and the team Dr. Arul Kumar, Dr. Jean Mathew and Dr. Garvit Shukla.

Thanks to the medical team, many of the riders could continue and finish the tour despite injuries. Notable examples were Aditya Kaul who was pushed off the road by a bus, Kumaril Prashant Patel and Shreyas K who mistakenly slammed their brakes and landed on their faces on different days and Nachiket Joshi who was suffering with knee issues during the first two days of the tour. It is as much a credit to the support of the medical team as it is to their own courage and spirit that these riders were able to continue and finish the tour strong.   

Support Station Staff:
It is no easy task to wait on the roadside in middle of nowhere waiting on strangers on the bike, who at times can be quite cranky after riding hundreds of kms and are often at the limits of their sanity. But the support station staff comprising of Shobha Mohandas, Shobha Mallappa, Vijayalakshmi, Anuritha(Anu), Rashmi Muniappa, Karthik Vijayan, Bharath Kumar and Praveen Raju did a fantastic job. Don't hold it against them if "Please get off the road", "Please sign before you leave", ring in your ears for a few days even after the tour.

Motor Bike And Car Patrol:
It is reassuring to have someone on the road going back and forth looking out for you and ensuring that everyone is safe and are on track. The bike and car patrol team of Apoorva Nagaraj, Ajay Venkatesh, Aravnida and Satish were a reassuring sight as they rode on the route. Tour director Francis Santosh Lobo, Assistant Tour director Badrinath Sastry and Treasurer Deepak Majipatil were filling in their double roles as bike patrol too. The other driving crew included Satish, Renuka, Babu (luggage), Suresh (supply) and Madesh (sweep).

Timer/Race Crew:
Race director Pramod Kumar(Modi) and his crew Vasu Mishra, Raghava Simha, Purushottam Raju and Kiran Kumar Raju had the tough job of timing the riders during competitive sections and consolidating the results in time before the eager riders bring the house down with the demands for timing information. They were on the job and got it done in time everyday including on the day when they were stranded in the hills of Ooty struck outdoors in bone chilling weather when their vehicle punctured. Well done boys!

Hospitality Crew:
Rakesh Basavaiah and Bindu Nagaraj taking care of the hospitality aspect of the tour by allotting rooms and making sure everybody had their luggage reach the hotel before them had a tough task. They had to service to the umpteen requests for room changes and swaps. They tried to cater to them as best as they can. 

Bike Mechanic:
Saravanan from Track And Trail must have been the most over worked volunteer on the tour. He kept slogging insane hours working on the bikes of the riders who kept lining up to sort all sorts of mechanical issues with their bikes all through the tour. Great job, Saravanan. 

Photographers and Blogger:
Who can bring a smile even when you are about to die climbing up an insane hill? Of course, the photographer. Chenthil Mohan and Chethan Ram did a fantastic job capturing the magical moments of the tour through their artistic eyes. Freya was her effusive self capturing the tour on her blog daily.  

GPS team:
The GPS team from Solverminds and Beacon, Thameem, Anuraj, Rasul Mansoor and Raju had the unenviable job of entrusting the GPS device to the riders and collecting it back to recharge it everyday. Although not all riders appreciated the value of the chore, their device did do the job whenever a rider went off course. A case in point Anuja Jain on day one. 
  
For me the following pic from Chenthil Mohan is a great symbolic representation of how much the volunteers and organizers pamper the riders so that they can solely concentrate on riding and enjoying the beauty of Nilgiris. 
The Accommodation:
The accommodation this year has been top notch. Except for the Sultan Bhatery hotel where the triple sharing turned out to be a bit congested, I didn't hear any negative feedback. The stay at Fern Hill in Ooty instead of youth hostel was really good since we did not have any problems with food or hot water. The campus offered a great setting for people to socialize during the rest day and the rooms were cozy nests to escape the chill of Ooty. The hotel Venkateswara in Madikere which was new at TFN was a good addition as well. The food and electricity troubles we had in TFN-2011 in Madikere were not repeated. 

The Food:
To be frank, I am not a dependable person to ask about food. I usually don't have anything negative to say about food. If it is remotely edible, it is fine with me. I did have complaints about the food in Madikere during TFN-2011. But this year, I thought the food at every hotel was good although they ran out of a lot of stuff at Mettupalayam. There was however a bit of complaining about packed lunch we had during the ride. Especially with the fried rice(or whatever it was) on Ooty day. It was completely dry and people were hardly able to gulp it down. I however was able to wash it down with a couple of minute maid juices. The packed lunch on day one(noodles and spinach named pasta) was too little I thought. The rest of the days were pretty good with the packed Pasta lunch from Fren Hill being the highlight. 

When it comes to the food at the support stations I think we had enough varieties although we tried creating even more varieties by combining the Goodday biscuits and peanut chikki with peanut butter to make sandwiches. The honey dried bananas was a hit too and tasted like dates. Of course the Minutemaid juices and coke were god send when the throats were parched. But after 8 days, all those varieties also can get boring and we resorted to discovering local delicacies.


The Route:
The introduction of Upper Bhavani loop added immense beauty to the already beautiful route. However, as always, Sultan Bhatery-Ooty was the queen stage this year too both in terms of difficulty and the way it had a huge impact on the general classification by almost deciding the eventual winners. Cutting short the ride from Madikere to Sultan Bhatery by 45km to avoid the bad roads I thought was a soft option although many riders appreciated it when they saw how bad the roads are while driving through them. 

Also even considering heavier traffic on it, taking out the Sathy climb from the CS I thought, made the tour slightly less tougher than it could have been. It could have added much more drama to the general classification than the flat 20km TT that took its place. Some people suggested that more hills be added to the route by cutting out the ride out of Bangalore. It is not a bad idea if this can be logistically managed to start the ride somewhere other than Bangalore so that we can ride more prettier routes in the hills.

The feedback from the international riders riding the tour this year has been that the route is as good as any they have ever ridden anywhere in the world.   

The Riders:
The tour this year has gone really national and international with riders from Ahmedabad(11), Pune(11), Delhi(7), Noida(2), Gurgaon(1), Bangalore(33), Mysore(1), Channapatna(2), Dehradun(1), Hyderabad(2), Patna(1), Chennai(1), Kolkata(1), Kuala Lumpur(1), Seattle WA USA(1), Seoul- Korea(1), UK(1), Singapore(2), and Sydney(1). All of them showed great spirit in completing the tough tour. It is so easy to give up when the going gets tough but riders like Kumaril, Aditya Kaul, Shreyas continued brushing aside their crash injuries. Uma Havaligi's unfortunate crash and fractured hand meant she had to withdraw from the tour. I'm sure she will comeback stronger next year and complete the tour. The tour is known for such comebacks. Just ask Ulhas Joshi who crashed out in the first TFN 2008 and Vineeth Katarki who crashed out in TFN-2011. Both of them came back this year to finish the tour without incident. 

It was such a pleasure to ride with and getting to know such diverse and awesome people from different parts of the planet and different walks of life. It is these riders, the volunteers and the great terrain that give this great tour its character.    

The Organization:
The organization has been nicely streamlined with processes refined over the last five years. The Tour Director(TD) Francis Santosh Lobo, Assistant TD Badrinath Shastry, Sponsor Relations incharge Sridhar Pabbisetty, Treasurer Deepak Majipatil, Volunteer Lead and Support Incharge, Adarsh Setkar and Race Director(RD) Pramod Kumar(aka Modi) did a fantastic job of aligning and orchestrating all the resources to the best possible way so that everything went smoothly. I'm sure they already have their eye on the ball to work on any feedback they receive to make it even better for the 6th edition of the tour.


The Sponsors:
On behalf of all the riders, I would like to thank all the support from the sponsors for this great tour.
Your support is priceless.. Thanks for the support!

Also read the day to day account of the tour here:

2 comments:

Sunil said...

Great job done in compiling the review I'd say.. This for sure has inspired me to be in the league for the next edition!!! (:

SHOCK WAVE said...
This comment has been removed by the author.

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