Tour of Nilgiris - Romancing the Blue Mountains

Glancing out the windows and sipping on a hot cup of tea; the morning was just breaking but I could already hear movements outside the hotel room door. Tinkering noises from the early ones tuning their cycles, enthusiastic chatter on the adventures gone by and discussions on the route for the day.

When: December 16- 23 every year (8 days)
Where: Route goes through Karnataka, Tamil Nadu & Kerala
The 2014 edition will pass through – Bangalore-Mysore-Ooty (via Kalhatty)-Kodanad-Palakkad-Valparai-Munnar
Registration: Opens on June 1
Common denominator: Everyone had only one way to describe the event – Amazing!

Set among the blue mountains of the Nilgiris, it’s the sixth day of the Tour of Nilgiris (TfN), one of the most scenic and enduring cycling trails in India. The 5th edition of one of the best planned cycling events, races through the ghat sections of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala stretching across 860kms in 8 days. The adventure tour attracts cyclists from across the world and this edition played host to 85 cyclists from various geographies coming in to ride and test their own endurance across what the ghats offered.

The route this year started off at Bangalore and traversed through the princely state of Mysore, before rolling into Coorg, the land known for its coffee and hockey. The tour has a race format built into it for the competitive spirits who come. Everyday has certain routes which are created into racing routes and it all finally culminates into a time and distance format over the 8 day race. We saw cyclists zipping through the Bangalore- Mysore highway, warming up and getting ready for what was in store for them through the duration of TfN.

From Coorg and its renowned coffee estates, we made way through the winding roads and hairpin bends into Ooty and its well manicured tea estates. The beauty of the mountains, the winding trails and the fresh energy is evidence enough of why cyclists vie to come back to the tour year after year. Each year is built across a new route, with new stretches to explore and race through.
The tour is not only one of enjoyment but also has a deep social commitment built into it. Charity riders raise donations to sponsor and fund select social organisations and NGOs working in education, environment and impact spaces. Riders commit to a certain NGO and work towards raising a certain amount of donation through their cycling thereby making an impact while having thrill of cycling trough the Nilgiris.

Aptly put by one of the volunteers, Sridhar Pabbisetty, “Cyclists come for the love of cycling; nothing beats the thrill of the wind rushing through your hair while you ride down green, beautiful, winding roads enjoying the company of other cycling enthusiasts. The tour however is not built for adventure and camaraderie alone, it has a wonderful social impact angle where certain select NGOs are supported through charity riders. When you have an event that provides into every aspect of the ecosystem, it can’t help but make you smile”.

While talking to the riders about the route and its uniqueness, there isn’t one who doesn’t miss out of sharing details of their gastronomic conquests! From tales of Kadubitu and Pandi curry (rice balls with pork curry) in Coorg, to chocolates and tea in Tamil Nadu; to the mouth-watering Unniappams and stews in Kerala, riders vouch for some of the best cuisines they have encountered on the route.

While the cyclists head out each day to test their endurance and enjoy the tour; there is a dedicated set of volunteers who work continuously in the background, striving to ensure a perfect, hassle-free event for the riders. The dedication of the volunteers and teams are amazing, they are out through the cold nights making sure each and every detail is taken care of. The event crosses through 3 states and more than 850 KMS, yet they seem to be able to cover it all without so much as batting an eyelid. Only when one stays up the night with the organising team does one understand the complexity of the logistics involved. Billed as India's most exciting cycling event, it is extremely well organised by professionals who share the vision of the The RideACycle Foundation. The staff includes not only well trained bike mechanics and volunteers, but also has a full time doctor, support medical staff and a fully equipped ambulance that will accompany the riders at all times.

As Badrinath puts it, “People look at the whole event and keep telling me how amazing it is! To me, this is possible only because of the team and the dedication of the TfN volunteers. Every minute activity is looked at and taken care of. Nowhere have I seen such passion and dedication for cycling, most of the team are cyclists themselves and would love nothing better than to jump onto the route themselves”.

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~ Compiled by Deepak Majipatil

Posted On Friday, October 31, 2014