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Stories of Rider : Nakul khadilkar

Gates of Heaven 2022

The clock ticked past 6-50 am, the tracking device read 1200km, the finish line was in sight. After a fist pump celebration with Abhishek, I saw my welcoming crew (Satish Addanki, Chethan Ram, Imtiaz and Pritish), the same people who have seen my cycling journey evolve very closely. It was a pleasure sharing my success with them. However, such was the exhaustion that no words were coming out, a smile is all I could manage. The body has suffered yet the soul was satisfied. Every rider had a smile on the face to go with the pain suffered within, making it a lifetime experience. This is a story of stories, an experience unmatched, a ride unforgettable: GOH 2022.


One of the advantages I had with this route was that it passed through my native (Mundaje). Having ridden in the terrain and weather provided some sort of confidence. However, I soon came to realize that no preparation will be enough as myself, Mohan and Satish did a recce of the route. After a few iterations the route was finalized and numbers came up: staggering!! It was going to be one of the toughest rides organized in India. There were four major climbing sections that needed to planned well. I kept my plan simple: ride the climbing sections in two parts and keep the distance to elevation ratio 1:10m on all rides leading up to GOH.

My partners in Chalukya (Nitin, Imtiaz and Dhananjay) along with Satish Addanki formed a group to plan our rides. Myself and Nitin did a couple of 200+km/2300+m rides (basavanbetta/sangam/muttatti) to warm up to the task at hand. Imtiaz, Dhananjay and Satish accompanied me to my native where we rode the Mundaje-Madikeri section of the GOH route. We learnt valuable lessons en-route: critical navigation points, hydration/food points and elevation profile. Having started fresh it took us 12 hours for 190 kms, which left us wondering how the hell will we do it!

While all of this was happening, I had ordered a steel frame to make my long rides for comfortable. I had seen folks at cadence90 ride some steel beauties and heard about the advantages of a well designed steel bike. After some initial research, I went to Scolarian Bikes in Coimbatore for my project. Have to say, the process was very smooth. I was patiently given crisp answers for all my newbie questions. Timelines were clearly conveyed and I was kept in the loop at each stage. The measurements were frozen based on my inseam and height. The paint decision took a little time but eventually made my choice: red. It was now the most agonizing part of the process: waiting. There was a small chance it was going to make it in time for GOH. But it wasn’t to be, as the government announced a weekend/night curfew in light of the rising cases and all of us riders were gutted. If we were in this state, imagine how Mohan and other volunteers who had committed their time and effort felt. It was not supposed to be like this. Mohan kept at it: conveying updates as and when he could and urging the riders to stay prepared. I decided to keep following my plan and be prepared when the time came. In the second week of January, the steel frame arrived, what a beauty! I was so excited that I went to the parcel carrier’s godown and collected it. The frame build was solid, the paint job: perfect. It was now time to make the transition from my beloved Jamis to the Scolarian (mixed feelings!). Ramesh (Bike N Rack) helped me set it up and looked fabulous.

Around the 2nd or 3rd week of January, Mohan announced the new dates for GOH and the josh was back again. His persistence is unmatched. He also scheduled a 200k BRM to Avalabetta: myself and Imtiaz decided to use this as training and complete it as fast as we can. We rode well, both of us were in form and my Scolarian was flying. The steel build and the superb rolling wheels made one fine combo. We finished around 3 hours before closing time. I went back to Ramesh and mentioned about the persistent neck pain and he got a bike fit done. After a change of positions and some small corrections, I was good to go again. One final ride was pending: conquering the chikmagalur giris. As we finalized the plan, I got sad news from Imtiaz that he had issue with the feet/hands causing swelling and he would not be able to join. Dhananjay joined me as we drove to Lingadahalli in my EV (first full trip with cycles). We covered the Santhaveri, Mullayangiri and Bababudangiri climbs and returned back to Lingadahalli. While I climbed without any distraction, Dhananjay did the same time while clicking photos and videos to share with the other riders. What a champ! I started to set things up very early as I had to travel to a friend’s marriage and be a part of my cousin’s marriage in the days leading up to the ride. Until the penultimate day, I was pondering whether to change the cassette to a better climbing ratio! Later I went with what Mohan said in one of the ride-related meetings: do not try anything new in the ride. It was during the the bag drop session that anxiety started kicking in (butterflies in the stomach). The time had come to figure out what happens when the odds are stacked against you. Take your coffee/snacks, this is going to be a roller coaster.

The ride

After a heavy wedding lunch, I took a power nap before reaching Palace Grounds around 3:15 (thanks to my friend Ranganath for dropping me). A quick test ride + bag setup later, I greeted fellow riders and took some pictures. Many outstation riders had to withdraw because of date change/covid related restrictions, but the kicker for me was that Imtiaz wasn’t riding. We had formed a great bond over the last year during the rides, which as a randonneur you know is very important. He is a humble chap off the saddle, an awesome rider on it. He was there to greet and see us off and lend some much needed ride-related stuff. The scenes at the start were mesmerizing, indicative of the grandeur of the event. We had light food arrangements, dollu kunita and a host of big names from the world of randonneuring. Cadence90 stalwarts Chethan, Ashwin were also there to cheer us up. The spirit of randonneuring was on full display as riders took photos and lined up for the start. I greeted Satish but saw no sign of Dhananjay. Finally, just few minutes before start he lined up alongside (heard he had a puncture). At 4:15 pm on February 11, we were off. Srinivas flagged us off and 58 of us would begin the suffer fest in unison.

Due to the nature of the terrain ahead, my plan was to make a healthy time buffer before hitting the Santaveri climb at 260 km. It was a tough ask but much needed. As we hit Tumkur road, we had our first challenge: traffic. The flyover near Peenya had been closed and the road underneath was jam packed. Somehow I used my commuting experience to weave left and right, limited my time damage and passed the toll from where the traffic eased. I picked up the pace and took left at the Nelamangala junction to hit the hassan highway which has become a tamed beast with continuous rides on it. The terrain was in our favor and the buffer was building up as a known rider came across to join me, Pritish Abraham. We had ridden together for a short while in Bhadra 600k. We joined forces and decided to make the most of the road ahead. His posture on the bike reminded me a lot of Imtiaz but he could ride off the saddle (sorry Imtiaz, had to add this). We took turns setting the pace and made sure the momentum was not lost. We reached CP2 Bellur cross in quick time: 8pm (107km,3h45m). That buffer we had was the best in my brevet career. We sat down, spoke a bit about the road ahead, strategy and gulped down Poori meals for dinner. As the next stretch had no options for food, we got aloo paratha packed. Two turned out to be too much for me as I handed one over to Swamy and co. We didn’t realize it was a manned CP until Monish asked for the brevet cards (phew!).

With a half hour break we hit road again as the kilometers ticked by. After some time, we caught up with the Chennai powerhouse duo of Arun and Maddy as we worked together. Then came a specialized bike in full flight: myself and Pritish caught the wheel. It was JJ (janmejay) hammering down on the pedals with a high cadence. We stayed with him for some time (ask anyone it’s tough) to let our legs get used to it and then we ripped it! Three of us moving back and forth, cranking the pedals: the road had no choice but to show lesser kms to go. I could not believe the pace we were setting and how my body was able to cope with it. At this point, we had only one thought: reach CP3 Mattighatta as fast as we can. We thought we were flying and then a rocket went by us: what posture, what finesse riding. It was the tall, strong stature of Vipin Devis who was belting down the state highway as if it was a piece of cake. What a sight! As we took the left at Arsikere, the roads started to worsen and night conditions made it tougher to navigate the potholes. We somehow managed to not be bogged down and kept at it. We reached CP3 around 1:15 am, fabulous little farmhouse all to us!! Had some sumptuous khichdi and fruits before taking a quick break/nap for 15 minutes. The key to these LRM’s is to be able to ride through the first night without sleep to make some buffer. We had ridden the 107km and 117 km sections between the CP’s non-stop! We had built a 5 hour buffer, but weren’t going to sit on it as we knew the elevation was actually starting now!

With some rest, me and Pritish headed towards the mountains with full confidence. We took a left at Birur and the road was awesome. Complete midnight silence, two of us riding in tandem, was a superb feeling. After taking the mandatory selfie at Lingadahalli police station, we were joined by Arun and Maddy as we hit the first climb of GOH 2022: Santaveri. Pritish was in full flight as he went up like a man possessed widening the gap and finally going out of sight. I maintained a steady rhythm not worrying about catching him. At the back of my mind I always knew there will be sections were the ride will be solo and relentless. At the top of the climb, between 3-4 am, guess who was there? Mohan and Suresh in the Seltos waiting for us to provide much needed support. Hot aloo bun, water and fruits were in stock. This was just the beginning of the exemplary support given by the team. The road eased a bit after Santaveri, but the cold bit me. My core got cold and I was not able to generate power at all. This was the first time doubts started crossing my mind about my ability to finish this ride. Pritish and Arun had gone ahead, me and Maddy were struggling in the cold. After a small climb in between, I had enough. I put on my jacket, full gloves and continued slowly. As I neared Kaimara (base of the two giri climbs) I gained some confidence back. Maddy wanted some tea, we stopped and saw Vipin lying down seeing the car pile up to enter the two mountains. Vehicles are only allowed after 6 am. I told Vipin not to wait and get going. Me and maddy soon followed, slowly but surely climbing ourselves back into a rhythm. As we were climbing up the first section, Jayaprakash (JP) was on fire. He went up like it was a Sunday morning highway ride. I felt like I was standing still seeing him go up. What a champ, it’s a big credit to his training levels to be able to do things like this. I made it up to Seethalayyangiri from where the gradient kicks to 10%+. I looked at Maddy and told him I was going to push for the last km, it was not worth the extra effort in such a long ride. He went one better and pushed from the lower slope itself! Huffing and puffing, I took the selfie at the top and came down like a man seeking revenge for the savage ascent. But Mohan had kept a CP in the first 2 kms of the descent so had to slow down and get my card signed. Such was the wind up there, I was hardly able to eat the food in a steady posture. Cold and windy, is there anything worse for a cyclist? (yeah, probably rain and cold!). After some pulav and mysore pak given by the ever-fresh Monish (who by the way is the only finisher in the last edition of GOH), I resumed by revenge descent. In rapid quick time, I was down at the junction and stuck in the wrong gear climbing towards Bababudangiri (Ouch!)

There was no sign of Pritish, but I found Arun and Maddy as I found my legs again. This climb was weird in the sense that we had to climb, descend and climb again to the top making it tougher but the gradients were not as much. By 9:50 am I was at the top and decided to take a few minutes to rest. On the way I had filled fresh water from a stream and that energized me. It was only now that I started to worry if Pritish and others ahead had lost their way. Maddy and Abhishek joined me at the top. Pritish soon came up and said he had gone down to Kaimara and climbed back up since he ran out of water (and still he made up the time). I shouldn’t be surprised since he is a ISAAN 2000km finisher after all, I was in elite company. Now we were a force of four hitting the rolling terrain towards Chikmaglur CP5: Pritish, myself, Maddy and Abhishek. Just as we were hitting the peak of the valley change from where we would go down all the way to CP5, Monish, Chandana, Sagar provided us some Bindu and yoghurt. On the way, I found Rohit Chandrashekhar and Dhananjay hitting the second climb. No sign of Satish and Srinivas Mallur worried me. We kept encouraging who ever was climbing as we bulleted down to Kaimara and CP5. Here we lost precious time, close to 40 minutes trying to find the CP. I had overtaken another one of the power houses (Dayalan) on the way down. The guy had barely slept the night before and yet he kept pedaling like the true warrior he is. We reached CP5 around 11 but had lost half an hour. This was Javed Pervez’s house, he provide some refreshments and some space to rest.

We collected some information and decided to have lunch in the town of Aldur. The heat started to kick in and my chain came off. Put it back, kept going and stopped at a small hotel as planned. With a full plate of curd rice in the belly, we resumed riding towards Balehonnur. We got some descents and Abhishek absolutely flew down like it was his last chance! Pritish and I kept close as we reached Balehonnur in the afternoon heat. Arun had stopped for some tender coconut water and we followed suit. Dayalan also joined us as we rehydrated ourselves and kicked again to Sringeri. It literally kicked us back with a steady climb, taking us by surprise. The only thing that was in our favor was the tree canopy giving some shade. Me and Pritish decided to stop at turn to have some food, as we realized our reserves were being eaten into. We asked how much climbing is left to Sringeri and the person said it’s all downhill from here (lol). As we had stopped anyway, we had some chapati kurma, refilled water, passed Sringeri towards Agumbe. Maddy rejoined us in this stretch and we picked up some pace as the sun was setting. Finally we started the deadly agumbe descent around 7pm and went down smartly (not safely). Me and Pritish cut across a bus just before one of the turns so we could get a clear path till the bottom, Maddy got stuck behind it. Hotel Seethanadi welcomed us at 8 pm having covered 490 km without sleep. JP, Arun, Abhilash and we three were the leading pack. Once Abhilash left, we wouldn’t see him again(not even at the finish line). The food was superb, we filled our tummies (I emptied mine too), rejuvenated ourselves thinking it would be a smooth ride to the sleep point in Karkala.

Little did we know what we had coming up. A rolling section towards Udupi with short length high gradients followed by a long unrelenting climb to the city where Glarish was waiting at the pass through CP. Since I did not drink coffee/tea that was on offer, she was kind enough to offer tropicana juice which provided much needed hydration. Here we met the duo of Galin Abraham (a legend with 19 1000+km rides under his belt) and Sundar Moorthy. Glarish told me that the riders were now spread over 10+ hours and it would be shivaratri for her at the CP! With no news of Satish or Dhananjay yet, I just hoped they were on track. Another 40 kms and we would be at the much needed sleep point (CP7). However, the roads did not ease up, the rolling terrain just went up a notch. Pritish said he needed a quick power nap and we stopped at an auto stand. He found a cushioned space (lucky) and then Maddy said he needed a sleep too. I used the time to update my family and the cadence90 group. All along I was being cheered and pushed on by their messages and support. I woke both of them up after 10 minutes and we resumed tackling the we-did-not-expect-it-to-be-tough terrain towards Karkala. We were discussing how others who were crunched for time would handle this surprise, would be tough. As we were nearing the CP7, the roads got to us and we were slowly losing time. It was then that Galin and Sundar flew by us followed by the machine JJ. I realized this train was worth catching to get more sleep and put the hammer down as I powered past Galin and caught up to JJ. The trio were reunited and we learnt that JJ had slept for a couple of hours in CP3 and had made up ground. We battered the terrain and reached Karkala to again be confused about the CP location. Luckily, we found it quickly and were relieved to find SKD and Fazil waiting for us. They made sure we followed the procedure and quickly set us up with room assignments. With the experience from Chalukyas 1200km, the drop bag process was now known and not time was wasted. As Pritish freshened up I setup my stuff for the next phase and reversed the roles before hitting the bed around 2-15 am. The next thing I know is my alarm beeping at 5-20 am. What a sound sleep! We got ready, set things up and hit the buffet breakfast table around 6 am. Yes, that’s right: buffet breakfast at 6 AM! That was the level of support we had, amazing. My achilles heel in long rides is not being able to ride pre-breakfast, but this was cancelled out by the food options at CP7. Here I saw Satish’s bike and also met Dhananjay who just arrived. Big relief to me to know both were on track. We started the second and deadly phase of the ride around 6:30 am. What was in store? Charmadi ghat climb, Somwarpet killer rolling terrain and the madikeri climb, all in the next 300kms. It was nothing short of a herculean task.

We weren’t giving up. This was my home terrain, I had the extra motivation to perform well (at least that was the josh). With good roads, we covered a good amount of ground before hitting trouble in Moodibidre as there was a road closure. We had to turn back, re-route and catch the road again on the other side, an extra 2-3kms in the process. We kept at it despite the challenges and reached the Bantwal CP to be welcomed by Chandrahasa with some refreshments. The heat increased and we stopped for breakfast and had some chapati kurma / idli / lemon soda. At this point of time, my left knee started paining due to the relentless effort. After breakfast, I put some spray and carried on in a hope that it will recede. We continued towards Charmadi and I told Pritish it’s better we stop before the climb and refuel, he agreed. We stopped at my brother’s clinic where my doddappa had also come to greet us. I applied some ayurvedic oil to my knee and had some coconut water. It was a much needed stop as the sun came down hard on us. We passed my home town as a couple of my relatives took some pictures (couldn’t stop due to time constraints) and hit the charmadi climb in the peak heat of the noon. Again, showing great strength and will, Pritish made a gap as he went up. We were almost half way there when Mohan and Suresh came by and provided some oranges and water. They were everywhere, literally. A salute to their commitment! After a quick chat, I started ahead of Pritish as I wanted to keep the momentum as the roads swirled up before changing valleys and then finally I saw the magic sign: 11th hairpin. That was the end of the steepest part. A few kms later we again got support from Monish, we were pampered! We had a nice chat and asked for information about others. We met Sunil and Santosh here as we rehydrated ourselves. They had lunch but we had not, hence we stopped after the climb in Kottigehara for Neer dose. We gobbled up 5/6 dosas along with kokum juice. All the on-road volunteers joined us for a yummy lunch: Mohan, Suresh, Monish, Chandana and Sagar. In my initial plan I had put down 2:30 pm as the planned time to reach Anemahal (CP8), however that was not possible as we had crossed that time. We had around 5 hours to cover roughly 50 kms. The terrain turned in our favor for a change, new roads helped us gain momentum. Navigation wasn’t a problem as I had done this route, so we could keep going. We passed Jannapura and hit the serene stretch to Anemahal, but still weren’t seeing Sunil/Santhosh who were not ahead by much. With 10 kms or so to go, we found the group of Swamy/Prasad/Sagar. There’s something about finding Swamy on the route that makes you feel confident that you are on track. He is a master planner, to the minute. Always has a smile on his face and keeps everyone around him motivated. Having seen him, I had another one of those go-berserk moments where I powered past them and hit CP8 just before 6 pm. We were down to a buffer of just 2 hours, but given the terrain/weather, even that was well earned. I ordered some fried rice and applied some anti-chafing cream to make sure the journey ahead will not become a nightmare. The fried rice portion was too much and I ended up eating only half. While we ate, JJ and abhishek were back with us and we teamed up to start the murderous section to Madikeri.

Navigation was critical here, we made sure the donigal left and the sharp right after wasn’t missed as we headed towards the bad roads of Hetturu. By this time, the sun had set, Pritish and JJ powered ahead. Me and Abhishek maintained steady pace. We made sure we were in visible distance of each other as the roads were bad and the light minimal. We somehow made it through the bad roads unscathed. Once the roads got better, I got some confidence to pick up the pace and reached Vanagoor quickly. There I saw JP, Arun and Maddy having food. That was the last point where we could expect any sort of food/hydration options. Now, at 772 kms in, it was test of willpower to go with the test of strength. Relentless crests and troughs, back to back, with average grades of 10%+. With my previous ride experience here, I had chosen a couple of places to push and Abhishek followed the same approach. He in fact pushed for more than a couple of kms, but said it was worth it! Now it was me against the terrain one-on-one in the silence of the night (not to forget the territory guarding dogs!). I climbed one, another came, got down another came: this was the story till somwarpet. One was so bad, I couldn’t push properly! There were stretches where I was seeing stars when in fact I was seeing the lights at the top of the climb. This was a mind bender of a section. Yet somehow, I kept rolling, in the biggest cog on the rear and the smallest ring in the front. At times I was at walking pace, but then the terrain eased a bit and I recovered and finally saw two blinking lights ahead. I checked twice to make sure I was not hallucinating. It was them, JJ and Pritish who has steam rolled ahead from Anemahal. We endured, we persisted and we reached somwarpet junction to find Monish and crew with much needed support. Just imagine getting options of curd rice/ fried rice / holige in the middle of the night. Other worldly! It was here that we had a gathering. Arun, Maddy, JP, us 4 and Rohit joined the party. Rohit was with Satish and co at Karkala, but pedaled solo after gaining momentum and made up time on us. Champion rider he is, it is not easy to keep the motivation up when riding solo in such demanding conditions. I found a concrete slab of a small store to stretch and laid down for a bit, abhishek followed, then Pritish too. We agreed on a 15 minute break. As we were restarting Mohan came by and said “we need to take blood samples of these guys, what are they on?”. He said it took him 3 hours to drive the same section which took us 4.5 hours on the bikes. Hilarious that was! A pinch of humor amidst the depths of pain. The final battle was upon us, the Madikeri climb. As we started, we navigated a small descent and started climbing again. About 5 or so kms in, we stopped for a quick nap in a bus stop. It was dusty, but who cared, we needed the rest. Monish and co stopped as we were just about to wake up. We then resumed riding and found a blinking light in another bus stop. It was Rohit with a Police officer and his assistant. The officer had stopped him since he was riding alone and forcibly taken his bike for a ride and caused a puncture. We stopped, assisted as much as we can and got back on the road. We felt like absolutely blasting the officer for the carelessness, but felt it’s better to go than create trouble for ourselves. Four of us now kept at it on the slopes to Madikeri, the road kept going up but our legs never lowered strength. We were not fast, we were steady, we finally hit the Madikeri road around midnight and reached Hotel Samudra. Once again our saviors were there with water/juice. What would be do without them. I made a blunder here: instead of turning left towards Chettalli, I went down at the circle seeing the downhill. Good thing Rohit realised in time and we climbed back up and took the right turn. What was expected to be a stroll to Chettalli turned into a nightmare in the blink of an eye. Make no mistake, it was downhill, not a pedal was needed, but we weren’t on a road, we were in a death trap. Narrow at places, exposed edges to the left, in the middle of the night, and potholes however you navigate. Our palms faced the brunt of the roads. To add to our misery, the cold increased as we were descending. Somehow we passed Chettalli without breaking a spoke or a bone. The stretch had taken a toll on us and we had to stop for a power nap. We found a bus stop and just laid down for 15 minutes. We resumed our search for the Abhaythmangala Post Office, but couldn’t find a sign of the same even though we were at the junction. Then we found a letter box and we thought it might have been there. We clicked a selfie and proceeded.

It was 4-30 am in the morning. We were shivering, knackered, yet nobody was stopping. In the next few kms the road improved and we navigated the potholes well before hitting the town of Kushalnagar. At 5-45 am on day three we had covered 878km. We had a small buffer of 3 hours, but we had it atleast! SKD and Fazil welcomed us again at the sleeping point with some cake, kitkat and fruits. We gobbled up some and went to our rooms. The 4 port charger lent by Imtiaz was a true life saver, I could charge all my devices and take a nap. We took turns freshening / setting other things up and went to bed around 6-30 am. We got just about an hour and half’s sleep and headed to have the yummy breakfast arranged for us. Don’t recollect exactly, but it must have been around 8-30 am when we got on the road again towards Periyapatna. The terrain was not our biggest challenge now, it was the heat and sleep deprivation. The fourth of us was different now, Maheshwaran joined myself Rohit and Pritish. We maintained a steady pace while knocking down the kms quickly. Rohit had a couple of close calls at the junctions due to careless riders. Maheshwaran had some FD issue that led to him only having the smaller chain ring for the rest of the ride. We stopped at the well known food truck en route and had some idli sambhar along with tender coconut. That helped us keep going as we reached the CCD Bilikere from where it was a state highway. Rohith had done this stretch and he helped us figure out that we need to stop for lunch in KR nagar before our options run out. We indeed stopped there had classic south indian meals as we saw Swamy/Prasad/Sagar again. There was no update from Satish, Srinivas, Dhananjay or Abhishek. The conditions were favorable until the lunch stop with cloud cover and a light breeze. However, the tide turned against us after the break as we headed towards Holenarasipura and the sun came out. Maheshwaran powered ahead as well took a sugarcane juice stop and a rest break with about 20 kms to go to CP10 (Hassan). Like angels, Mohan and Suresh arrived with food/hydration options. We saw that one of food points we had jotted down was under construction. We asked about other riders, he said Satish was struggling and planning to quit, Dhananjay and Srinivas were coming but they were crunched for time. I also heard from SKD that Dhananjay had resumed riding in the opposite direction as he exited the second sleeping point. We reached CP10 around 6 pm and had a healthy 3 hour buffer in hand.

The cafe had good food options: we took the paneer noodles and sandwiches to fuel ourselves for the home stretch. We tried sleeping on the table, but the owner was kind enough to allow us to lye down in the banquet hall. Though the space was good, there was distraction and we couldn’t get the sound sleep we expected, only the body got rest. At this point I emptied one of the anti-chafing sachet and was left with one more. From here, the road was known, it was a question maintaining the resolve to finish amidst sleep deprivation. Rohit, Pritish and myself hit the road with determination to keep a steady pace to avoid sleepiness. For the first hour and a half we had covered 35 kms, that was incredible considering we had pedaled 1000+kms already. After that we steadied ourselves to avoid exhaustion, however we would soon stop at a tea stall for a quick break. The owner waited for a bit and woke us up saying the tea will get cold and he is closing the shop soon. We restarted our ride and decided to hit it till Empire and rest there since it was open till 1 am. I called up Imtiaz (who runs the Empire chain of hotels) and he was kind enough to allow us to take a power nap inside. But reaching there was starting to look farfetched. Just as we were losing our rhythm, a voice came from behind said “common boys”. It was Abhishek who caught up with us. He had a tough time on the Periyapatna road: took a 2 hour sleep break in CCD, Bilikere and smashed the next stretch to make up the time. Rock solid rider, who like me, can crank up the speed during the night than the day. The force of four was back and we steadily ticked off the distance and reached the CCD selfie point. Took a snap and moved ahead but Rohith called us to stop at the toll. Pritish/Rohith needed a break but we convinced them that we should reach Empire and then break. They agreed and we motored along to reach around 12:40 in the night. We had yummy food, milkshake, fruit salad. It was a dream meal. We had around 80 odd kms remaining with a handsome buffer in hand. 1 hour of solid sleep, felt like more than that. As I freshened up, I emptied the whole sachet of anti-chafing cream to make sure I go till the finish with no saddle sores. As we restarted, Milan briefly joined us. As we picked up pace, we caught up with Sunil/Santhosh and passed them. During this time, I saw the update in the group that Dhananjay and Srinivas had made it to Infinity cafe. This was a comeback for the ages. They had barely slept. Srinivas with this MTB and slippers was writing a story of a lifetime. And our beloved ex-navy guy Dhananjay was joining the story line. At one point, I almost had tears in my eyes thinking of what they must be going through and what it to took to just be in this position of finishing. True warriors in their own sense.

There was one more warrior ahead of us, Pritish. After we started from Empire, he was nowhere to be seen, powering away to victory on his own. As we hit the toll before Nelamangala, I couldn’t hold the sleep. As Rohith and Abhishek stopped for tea, I requested a 10 minute break for a nap. I recollect just falling to floor in a heap. Next thing I know Abhishek says I had the best power nap. That was the recharge needed to hit the finish line. The three of us hit the home stretch and closed the chapter on one of the toughest LRMs conducted in India. It was an honor to finish it in time and be able to ride with awesome riders who made the ride unforgettable. An 87h finish for this route is not a bad effort at all! The arrangements at the finish were also top notch, we had breakfast, a host of people who welcomed us with open arms. What was noteworthy was that each rider made sure they greeted others as and when they finished. We all knew what we had been through and it was time to acknowledge each other’s feat. The spirits were high and rightly so. After receiving the custom made momento for the finish, I headed back home. My dad and Rajeev Bhide had come down to greet and pick me up. As I was narrating my experience in the car, I got updates that both Dhananjay and Srinivas had made it in time. They had ridden almost 180kms at the stretch to the finish line with very little sleep. Absolute heroes they are. Their never give up attitude will be an example to follow for us all. I was so happy for them, wish I had stayed back to wish them in person for the herculean task they had just pulled off.

All in all, to summarize : Pain was shared, memories were made, an unique experience was created.

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