"After TOA everything now looks plain and boring." - Robin Thakur, An engineering professional with Ford Motors
"Those who weren't a part of the tour missed a lot... The three days of cycling would easily feature among the top five riding experiences of my life... The support provided by the team was overwhelming." - Kishan Parasu, A Doctoral Scholar at IIM, Ahmedabad
"Driving back home from Ranakpur was a mixed bag of feelings, happiness , sense of achievement, new bonds and a feeling of determination to do better next time, but foremost was that of amazement." - Amit Telluja
"The bar is now set in India of how an event should be organized." - Sohil Parekh, Assistant Vice President at Claris Group
"Real luxury on the bicycle, now feeling economy class in the car. Thanks and please confirm two seats for us - Father and son duo - for the next year's edition." - Bharat Suthar
"Thank you team TOA to have given us the best time of our life" - Chandan Purohit, Vice President with the Claris Group
The Four-Day, Three-Stage Montra Tour of Aravallis, which was envisioned to match a World Tour Cycling race experience, may have pulled off just that going by the stream of accolades and positive testimonials it has been receiving, both from the riders and the followers of its stream on Facebook and Instagram. All the riders have unequivocally promised to return for the next year’s edition. The bigger thing however, has been the stance of those related to and in the circle of the riders. The social network proliferation has ensured that they saw what transpired at MTOA this year and many have thus resolved to take up cycling, if they already haven’t, train hard, and be prepared for the next instalment of Tour of Aravallis. With this it can be said that Cyclone Cycling Club has had an astounding success in the way of fulfilment of its mission statements.
2. The Tour
Modelled as a mini version of a Cycling Grand Tour with multiple modifications to suit the feasibility aspects and logistical constraints, Montra Tour of Aravallis 2016 kicked off with the riders assembling to deposit their respective cycles at Decathlon Applewoods in the early hours of the morning of 31st August. The riders themselves assembled at Gotilla Garden, Sindhu Bhawan Road and left for Hotel Chandrawati at Abu Road in the afternoon of the same day. Once at the Hotel, the riders, with the assistance of the support staff, assembled and readied their bikes for an early morning start on the next day.
2.1 Day One
The day started with a wakeup call to each rider from one of the volunteers. After a sumptuous breakfast as prescribed by the tour’s official nutritionist Shaily Chauhan, the riders assembled at the start point and warmed up under instructions from the physiotherapist on board with the support team. The flag off happened at 7 AM and riders left for their respective Day One exploits. The Day’s ride required the riders to cover a distance of 68 kilometers from Hotel Chandrawati to the highest point of the Aravalli Range – Gurshikhar – via Mount Abu, having touched a maximum elevation of about 1700 metres and then ride a technical descent to Palace Hotel - Bikaner House, Mount Abu (touted to be the best hotel property in Mount Abu). The total elevation gain on Day One measured close to 1900 metres. The change in scenery, weather conditions and terrain from those in Ahmedabad meant that quite a few riders had starting troubles in the form of punctures and other mechanical failures, exhaustion on the climbs, a few injuries as a result of falls etc. However, the superb and prompt assistance from the support team and the co-riders meant that the hurdles were dealt with and a Hors categorie climb from Mount Abu base to Mount Abu and multiple category four climbs from Mount Abu to Gurshikhar were conquered by the majority of riders. The competitive segment for the day started from a point close to Dilwara Temple and ended at the Gurshikhar peak spanning a total of 11 kilometres. The race format was Individual Time Trial, also known as the “Race of Truth” where the riders, in addition to indirectly competing with each other for the day’s honors, were competing against the time. The favourites before the Tour started – Kartik Kansara and Mayank Tripathi - lived up to their billing and put an almost unsurpassable gap between them and others vying for the general classification. They finished first and second respectively with Rudra Naik lying at a distant third. The veteran’s category was won by Marco Hendricks who came all the way from The Netherlands to be a part of the tour and Eva wrapped up the women’s category. The riders took the rest of the day off and prepared for a massive 167 kilometre ride the next day.
2.2 Day Two
The planned route for day two consisted of a 25 odd kilometres descent from the Palace Hotel - Bikaner House to the base of Mount Abu and an onward journey to Ranakpur via Swaroopganj, Jaswantgarh, and Sayra. However, the riders were greeted with an early morning shower and thick fog. The Tour Director - Anuj Sharedalal – hence took a difficult but necessary call to start the ride later in the day and skip the first 40 kilometers on the account of riders’ safety. The riders and their bikes were duly dropped to the revised start point and the ride commenced at 10 AM. The biggest surprise for everyone was the presence of Jonty Rhodes, the legendary South African Cricketer and arguably the best fielder of all time at the start line. His presence as the brand ambassador of the Tour’s Title Sponsor Montra lifted the spirits of the riders and volunteers alike. During his ride with the rest of the riders till Jaswantgarh, multiple selfies were taken and conversations were had as the riders enjoyed beautiful landscapes, changing weather conditions, and an exciting 24-Kilometre individual time trial. Mayank Tripathi, who was about three minutes behind Kartik controlled the race and made up time to be only 18 seconds behind the leader at the end of day two’s competitive segment. Kartik, marred by cramps, finished third with Rudra taking the second position. Marco and Eva retained their lead in their respective categories. The ride from Jaswantgarh to Ranakpur, though uneventful, was imbued with breath-taking landscapes, meadows, greenery, tunnels, drizzle, rain, fog, fast descents, and dangerous road conditions (in some parts). Day Two ended with a healthy yet fearful anticipation of the upcoming gruelling third day’s ride from Mana Resorts at Ranakpur to Kumbalgarh Fort and back.
2.3 Day Three
The statistics and cue sheet provided to the riders made for an exciting and hitherto unseen (for many) reading. 110 kilometres, an elevation gain of close to 2000 metres, numerous steep climbs with some amounting to a gradient measuring 20% and a competitive segment covering 16 kilometres, something that would have posed a huge test to even the best of the Grand Tour Riders. The riders were in for an early competitive segment start that lay just 7.5 kilometres from the day’s start point. However, the treacherous pathway inundated with chipped roads and potholes ensured that the riders were warmed up to the task. The usual suspects and favourites started strongly on the course but tragedy struck Mayank Tripathi who got pinch flats in both his bike’s tyres after failing to outmanoeuvre a huge pothole filled with previous day’s rain. Thanks to the race director’s verdict and his own immense sportsmanship, Mayank rode back to the start point and completed the course in second place to Kartik. Hence, the general classification at the end of all three competitive segments read - 1. Kartik Kansara 2. Mayank Tripathi and 3. Rudra Naik. Marco and Eva clinched the titles in their respective categories as well. Dr Naresh, who met with an accident later in the day and Chandan Purohit completed the podium in Veterans category. The day, however, did not end with the CS. Some riders negotiated the classified climbs on their bikes, others walked through them. Punctures also had a field day as many struggled with the gravel and debris ridden roads. With the cut-off time for the day marked at 5 PM, some riders were taken in by the sweeping vehicles towards the end. The day‘s ride ended at Mana Resorts with a photo session with each rider positioning themselves and their wares in their favourite poses. An after event prize distribution and party stood as a fitting culmination of the day and the event. The riders left for Ahmedabad the next day.
Female Category -
1. Eva Jyrwa, Ahmedabad
1. Marco Hendriks, Rotterdam, Holland
2. Dr Naresh Hundiya, Ahmedabad
3. Chandan Purohit, Ahmedabad
Non veteran -
1. Kartik Kansara, Ahmedabad
2. Mayank Tripathi, thane
3. Rudra Naik, Chennai
Montra Tour of Aravallis was a memorable event for everyone associated with it, for a variety of reasons, mostly good. The organizing team, with zero experience in event management, equipped with only sheer passion for the sport of cycling pulled off an event which from now on sets the gold standard in organization of sports event. The minutest of details were taken care of and events within events were pulled off with great panache; thus combining to the overall success of the Tour.