Over five months ago, Chethan gave me the dates for the 4th season of Tour of Karnataka and I immediately booked my tickets from Los Angeles to Bangalore. The wait felt incredibly long.
After what felt like years, we finally met at Cadence90 on Tuesday, 20th November, 2018. Vishal brought in some chocolates. Everyone arrived and we were ready to leave for Hassan by bus. The journey to Hassan was a lot of fun as always. Dinner was served at a fantastic restaurant on the Bangalore - Hassan highway, and we arrived at the hotel in Hassan by 9 PM. As usual, we ended up talking and having fun till midnight.
Day 1 - Hassan to Shimoga
Chethan briefed us about the route, Dhinesh took a fantastic group photo, and we were off. One of the support cars led us through the city towards the outskirts. Everyone was super excited about the day. The usual peloton formed fairly quickly, and we started doing rotations. On the outskirts of the town of Javagal, at the 40 kilometer mark, we stopped for breakfast. Renu and Chethan were prepared to serve us yummy Kesari Bath and Khara Bath. Breakfast tastes more amazing than usual when you are with 40 other people. After a few of servings each and some water refills, we took off again.
The famous Chape (Kannada word for mat. Pronounced Cha-pay) gang, lead by Madhu sir, who are very well known for stopping and helping everyone in need, and are also the biggest part of the Cadence90 peloton, decided to stop after about 20 kilometers for a round of tea/coffee. We ended up stopping most of the riders at the coffee shop. More chatting and laughing ensued. A couple of us slowed down a little due to the heat, especially me. We reached the lunch point at 87 kilometers. I had a throbbing headache. Nani (Narayan Hegde) gave me a painkiller. An hour later I was ready to ride again. Phaneesh took off to beat a few Strava segments. Pancham and I rode at a steady pace for the next 40 kilometers. The Chape gang had spilt up and we were eager to catch up with them. As we approached the outskirts of Shimoga, we were finally able to spot the gang at a bakery. We all had some juice and snacks, and were ready to finish the day in style.
The approach to the hotel was blocked by a procession. Madhu sir and Jaisimha sir finally managed to find a path through the procession to the other side of the road which got us closer to the hotel. We reached the hotel at around 4:30 PM. We spent the rest of the evening having some beer and snacks. Dinner was served at 7:30. Our tummies were full, legs were tired, and jaws were hurting from all the laughing. Finally at around 11, we decided to call it a day, and went to bed.
Day 2 - Shimoga to Honnavar
Though the elevation map made the course look fairly rolling, we were told that the day would be fairly tough with a couple of stretches of rough roads. Honnavar is the hometown of one of our riders, Vishnu Bhat, popularly known as Vishnu saar :-). It is also close to the hometowns of Nani and Parameshwar Hegde (Param). All three of them have this fantastic excitement and eagerness to introduce everyone to their towns.
We started off at 6:30 AM. I felt a lot better than the first day since the temperatures were lower. Since it was a 160 kilometer day, we decided to take it easy, and ride at a more human pace than usual. The peloton formed fairly quickly with Jaisimha, Madhu Iyengar, Satish Addanki, Vishnu Bhat, Nani, Pancham, Phaneesh, Param, Harshith, Aditya and myself. The pace picked up a little and we were moving fairly quickly towards the breakfast point at the 34 kilometer mark. Breakfast was fantastic as usual.
Unfortunately Vishnu sir had a fall. Being super strong, and with some first-aid from Dhinesh, he rode till the breakfast point despite the injuries to his knees and ribs. Everyone was bummed out because of his fall.
The Chape gang started riding towards the next checkpoint. Pancham, Phaneesh, and I were a minute or two ahead, and we were told to keep going at the same pace. At around the 70 kilometer mark Phaneesh took off like a rocket, and Pancham and I fell behind. We reached the lunch point at Ajjana Mane, owned by one of our fellow riders, Gowrisha Hosakere. It's a fantastic place. If you are in the area, I highly recommend staying there. The food was incredible, and the place was so quiet and peaceful. When I saw the house, I was really tempted to stay back. Pancham and I spent over 2 hours at the lunch point even though we knew that we had 70 kilometers to go. The group started about 15 minutes before us. There were a few descents after the lunch point where I really enjoyed myself. Pancham almost went off the road at a hairpin bend. Fortunately nothing crazy happened. We then hit a rough stretch of road. 20 kilometers later we reached the end of the hill at Gersoppa.
One of the other highlights of the day was a small juice shop about 40 kilometers after the lunch point at Gersoppa. They make this fresh lime soda in a very unique way with a special homemade powder and a homegrown technique. I won't describe how they make it because I really want you to go there and try it out. Reach out to any of us if you want to know the exact location.
The Chape gang had stopped for us at the shop. We all had a few lime sodas, and a ton of snacks. We met Santosh, Shashank, Ram, Kritika, Devon, Vinayak sir, and Prasad sir. Right after we took off again, Param had a flat. The gang came back to the shop again, and while the flat was being fixed, we all had another round of sodas.
Nani had made plans to visit his parents, and he decided to start before we did since he had to cover 30 more kilometers than us. After the flat was fixed, we started riding again towards the finish line at Honnavar. The ride from the juice shop to the finish line was the hardest. I rode pretty slow, and Pancham kept me company. We reached the hotel at 5:15 PM, and that concluded my first 100 mile ride. Vishal finished a little after 6 PM when there was no sunlight. Chethan assisted him with car lights just to make sure he could finish the ride. Pancham and I were treated to a nice evening snack by Gowrish sir.
We got more beers, and chatted for a few hours. Dinner was served at 8 PM, and I was off to bed sooner than the previous day. I did miss the after-dinner fun.
Day 3 - Honnavar to Sirsi
Two epic climbs, 90 kilometers of riding, and fantastic weather. I was looking forward to this day. Devimane and Bandal ghats are known to be brutal even on buses. Our local riders told us that the two climbs will be pretty tough.
Briefing was done at the usual time. We left Honnavar towards the first stop. Breakfast was arranged at the 40 kilometer mark. The ride to the restaurant was pretty hard. After two long days of riding, some of us were having a hard time sitting on the saddle (due to obvious reasons :P). It was a really nice restaurant. We had good breakfast and got ready to move towards the climb. Two of our riders - Pancham and Phaneesh - had decided to attempt the Strava segments. The climb started 7 kilometers after the breakfast point. I had no energy left to attempt the segment and decided to ride at my own pace. The Chape gang were a little ahead of me and Pancham. Nani was pacing both of us really well. At the start of the climb I fell back. Nani and Pancham took off. Phaneesh had started the climb already. I didn't see anyone until the half way mark. Chethan had written some "motivational" (note the quotes :P) messages for us along with the route markers. I went past a few riders and got to the very last kilometer. Pancham and Nani were flying. Pancham had overtaken Phaneesh and was going for the KOM. By the time I reached the top of the first climb, some of the riders were already there. Pancham had gotten the KOM, Nani had finished second, followed by Phaneesh and the rest of the riders. We waited for some of the riders to get to the top and then started towards the second climb. A few kilometers before the start of the second climb was this restaurant. Nani made all of us stop there and treated us to some fantastic food - Misal Bhaji, Buns, and lime soda. He was so excited to introduce everyone to the local delicacies. Thank you Nani!
The second climb was not so brutal. Phaneesh took the KOM followed closely by Pancham and Harshith. At the top of Bandal ghat was a nice house where lunch was being served. We were all pretty hungry. After a sumptuous lunch, we were ready to leave for the finish. We only had about 20 odd kilometers to go. I asked Nani for ice cream :-D and we found a little ice cream shop a few kilometers from there. We made a lot of riders stop there and by the time everyone was done eating, the shop had run out of most of the flavors. We even tried a few more shops since the ice creams there were so tasty, but we couldn't find any. The Chape gang took off again with a bunch of other riders. Nani, Pancham, and I were riding a slightly different pace. A few more kilometers and we reached Sirsi.
I think you guessed what happened next :-). We cooled off with some beers, ate some really nice food, and relaxed until dinner time. Dinner had some local delicacies and I'm sure everyone loved it. I did end up going to bed pretty early.
Day 4 - Sirsi to Ganeshgudi
Hornbill River Resort in Ganeshgudi is a really nice place. The tour was scheduled to end there. After the usual briefing, we left Sirsi at 6:45 AM. Shashank was in popular demand. Everyone wanted to ride with him. Shashank and I were the last ones to leave after a photo with Renu.
Just like last year, Chethan had arranged Kotte Kadubu for breakfast. The breakfast point was about 15 kilometers away from Yellapur. We were pretty hungry by the time we got there. Half a kilometer before that place was a bridge with a little stream under it. Dhinesh was waiting on the bridge to capture individual photographs of riders. I ended up doing a retake. After the photographs and some fantastic food, we left for Yellapur where Nani's Father-in-law owns a restaurant. A small press meet was arranged in Yellapur. They took a photo of the gang and we were featured in the next day's newspaper (http://www.vijaykarnatakaepaper.com/epaper_1_1_14_2018-11-25_a.html#). Nani's Father-in-law had arranged tea for us. We were in the mood for some ice cream and he ended up buying ice cream for all of us. A huge thank you sir!
After Yellapur the road flattened out. We met Vishal on the way. He was having a difficult time because he had switched bikes. The Chape gang was waiting for us a few kilometers outside of Yellapur. We had some soda and snacks, and left towards the lunch point. Lunch was arranged at the entrance of Kali Tiger Reserve. On the way to the lunch point, Pancham and I started posing for photos. Dhinesh took some amazing shots. At one point we decided to sprint behind the car in which Dhinesh was traveling. He got some good shots of the sprint as well.
It's always a lot of fun riding in the forest. We were told to ride in groups. The gang finished lunch, relaxed for a while, and started towards the forest. The ride inside the forest was a lot of fun. Pancham, Aditya, Nani, Satish sir, and I started attacking. Aditya's commentary was hilarious. It made us ride harder. Finally after a ton of attacks and a lot of laughing, we descended out of the forest, and reached the other end where we stopped for some more juice. A lot of riders were waiting at the shop. We had a great time eating, drinking, and laughing. Dhinesh took a fantastic photograph of the group. We had another 50 kilometers to go. Pancham and I mounted a nice attack and we went flying for a while, passing a lot of other riders. Nani caught up with us. Once we got close to Dandeli, Phaneesh went flying past us, and we fell behind. We then waited for the Chape gang to catch up. They were with us in a few minutes and we were off towards Ganeshgudi, with me constantly asking for tea/coffee. A few kilometers later we spotted Manjunath sir on the side of the road. He had a problem with his chain. The leader of the Chape gang, Madhu sir, fixed the chain and helped him start his ride again. Eventually we found a tiny shop that had some soda. We all enjoyed a few sodas and some snacks. Right when we were about to leave, Param had a flat. Again! The Chape gang helped him fix it. We asked Shashank and Jaisimha sir to wait at the 118 kilometer mark. That's where we were supposed to start descending towards the resort. We stopped for some hot Kokum juice and chips. A bunch of other riders caught up with us. Thirty minutes later we all gathered at the 118 kilometer mark and decided to finish the ride together. More than 15 riders were descending the last 4 kilometers together, with Shashank in the lead. It was a fantastic descent.
...and then we spotted it. The final road marker. The end of Tour of Karnataka Season 4. Everyone was happy and sad at the same time. Happy to have completed the ride, and sad that the tour was over. We waited for all 15 riders, and started walking towards the entrance of the resort. Everyone cheered for the Chape gang and the Adhyaksha (chairman), Madhu sir. We cheered for each other as well. I think that was the loudest entrance in the history of the Tour of Karnataka. Food and drinks were flowing, and we had a great time through the night.
In my opinion, Tour of Karnataka is not just about the fantastic ride/routes. It's about the time we get to spend with each other throughout the day and the fun we have. It has never been a race. Although we try to beat segment times, we still love to wait for everyone and make sure every rider completes the tour.
At this point I would like to say thank you to
- Cadence90, Chethan, and Renu for organizing the ride
- Dhinesh for taking fantastic photographs
- The extremely patient support staff who are always smiling
- Chape gang for being there for everyone
- All my fellow riders
I would like to thank Chethan for lending me his beautiful bike. I had never ridden a steel frame for more than 10 kilometers. I loved riding it. Watch out for my review of the bike.
Congratulations to our youngest and strongest rider, Ahillan Mani. Keep riding hard!
Congratulations to all the Strava Queens and Kings of mountains.
The riders of Tour of Karnataka Season 4
Gowrishankar Hoskere, Prasad Belavadi, Hrushikesh Sabnis, Narayan Hegde, Harshith Kashyap, Parameshwar Hegde, Supriya Nadig, Bala Variyam, Devon Bhandary, Phaneesh Nagaraj, Manjunath Ramaiah, Vinayak Rao, Jaisimha Haldodderi, Vishal Rajani, Supreeth Garla, Nithya Srinivasan, Manjunath Kabadi, Pancham Bharadwaj, Santosh Ghorpade, Ajinkya Kolwankar, Sandeep Gurudutt, Ramkumar Shankar, Kritika Rajmohan, Satish Addanki, Nitin Jagtap, Vishnu Bhat, Ahillan Mani, Rahul Mani, Madhu Iyengar, Shashank BS, Aditya NC, Bharath Kumar, Somashekar Naganna, Karun Ramakrishnan
Get the latest posts delivered right to your inbox.