We were in the casa of Baba Velo aka Rajesh Nair, in the suburbs of Sri Lanka. I had flown from Port Blair to Chennai the previous morning, met up with Mohan at the airport, and then continued on to Colombo on separate flights (which arrived within 15 min of each other in the early afternoon).
We had celebrated with large amounts of pizza the previous night, and I wasn't able to sleep till 11:30; the night before, I had slept for 4.5 hours as well, as I had an early flight out of Port Blair. So I was understandably in pain at 5:30am in the morning.
We packed the car and rolled out fairly close to schedule, and drove about 30km out of Colombo to the starting point of our ride, just outside the city. A breakfast of cakes and chicken&cheese buns later, it was time to start riding.
Soon after we got underway, I had to make a short stop to adjust my seatpost, which I hadn't tightened enough, and then we continued. The road was in fairly good condition, and while there was a fair amount of traffic, the drivers were quite polite and gave us ample space when they passed us: no aggressive moves, no honking, etc. The pace was nice and brisk, at around 32-35kp - the roads were quite flat and despite the lack of sleep, we were all full of energy as we had been looking forward to this trip for a while. My recently-stitched left hand (had cut the webbing the previous day while trying to remove a pedal when packing the bike) was acting up a bit, making it hard to hold the handlebars; every bump was causing a fair bit of pain as well. However, in a short while, I was able to figure out a way to hold the handlebars that kept the pain to a minimum.
The road was mostly rolling - initially, I stayed with Raj and Mohan but kept going into the red while doing so. Realizing that we still had a long way to go, I started going off the gas a little on the climbs and pushing harder to catch up on the downhills and flats. After about 40km or so, the effort of repeatedly bridging up to them started taking its toll - we hit a prolonged climb and those two were gone. I soldiered on for a while, pacing myself on the climbs and pushing on the flats. By the 70km mark, my energy levels were dropping, my saddle - a Specialized Toupe, instead of my normal Selle San Marco Aspide - was starting to chafe and my shoes were hurting. Thoughts of bailing after 100km started creeping into my head.
At the 90km mark, I caught up to the other two, who were waiting for me. En route, I got a pro-style banana handup from Chaminda, who was driving the sag vehicle and by now, the banana was starting to take effect. Mohan and Raj were also energized and we started with fresh gusto. Soon, we turned off the highway onto a quiet road that passed through the side of a national park (electric fences on the side), and now we started picking up momentum, moving at a brisk 33-35kph.
|Riding next to a National Park|
After lunch, we got our aching muscles back on the bike and the initial 1-2 km were at a very sedate pace - we had agreed to take it easy for the rest of the ride, and in a strange linguistic mix-up, that actually meant that we were taking it easy. We passed a couple of wild elephants right by the side of the road, watching us with impassive eyes from the other side of the electric fence, and also spotted a few land monitors sunning themselves.
By now, the food was starting to take effect and I started feeling better - by my calculations, if we maintained 35kph for the rest of the ride, we'd clock in the imperial at a 30kph. Since we had been holding 33-34 for the bulk of the ride earlier, only losing time due to having to slow down when going through towns and villages, and with a smoother, faster tarmac under us and the hint of a tailwind, this was doable.
So we dropped the hammer, each of us taking turns to pull at the front. After an hour, we hit rollers - and sure enough, I got gapped again (big surprise that. As I've said on Facebook, when the road goes up, I get dropped faster than Paris Hilton's panties). However, this time I was feeling good and while the legs were tired, I was still able to push when the road flattened out again. And push I did, hammering along at 38-40kph for an extended period before finally bridging up to Mohan and Raj again. Thus we continued for a while.
With about 140km under our belt, Baba Velo decided to turn on the screws and jumped. Mohan tried to follow him, and I tried to follow Mohan, both with mixed success. So we were all doing individual TTs. At the 150km mark, Raj pulled over as per his ride plan. Mohan and I continued onwards, and for the last 1-2 km, I gave it everything I had - big chainring, off the saddle, hammer hammer hammer for as long as I could before the legs eventually said no mas. The Garmin read 161km at that point, at exactly 30kph, and that was it for me for the day.
|The big push at the end|
Mohan continued onwards for a few more kilometers as cooldown and soon, all 3 of us were back in the support van, feeling great about a nice fast ride and a very strong finish.
After a quick shower and a disgusting recovery shake (Rego, not my usual Hammer Nutrition), we took a quick round through Yala NP, scoring 3 leopards, an elephant, some chital, a couple of crocs, wild boar, a ruddy-faced mongoose and a few land monitors. Not a bad way to cool down after a ride, eh?
Dinner was yet another Lankan Curry, after which it was off to bed.