August 13, Tuesday || Pre-Race Jitters
Finishing all the work and KT’s to colleagues on my absence and emails on the progress of the tasks at hand, I finally reached back home at pm.
Vishu came along with Akhil, my buddies from school, to drop his old since I cut go pro from my budget.
With the pre-race jitters slowly picking up, I had trouble digesting even the curd rice I was having and started puking chunk by chunk. My sleep for that night went for a toss in midst of developing a mild fever which definitely got Mom worried.
August 14th || Hyderabad => Paris
I would be crossing India’s border again after 10 years and I was visibly very excited. Mom and I woke up pretty early, packed up and set go, and I started puking again on the way to the airport. Mom took out some cloves from the checked luggage. I felt a bit better by the time we reached the airport.
Sunil, Vishal, and Karthik were already waiting for me at the airport and we all took a nice group picture and then went inside the airport.
Emirates had a moderate baggage policy with 25kg Check-in plus 7 kg under hand bag but they insisted on getting our bike boxes wrapped and this took 300-/ extra. The officer was friendly enough to overlook the extra 2 kgs each I was having on my baggage. With check-in baggage done, we went ahead to the security check.
Remember how we searched for the cloves when I puked, they were in the check-in baggage and while getting them out, I absent-mindedly put my tool kit into hand baggage which had multi-tools, screws, etc and understandably thrown into the garbage, unless I could take the trouble of going back and putting it into the checked baggage.
The journey was a 3h 40 min flight to Dubai followed by a 2h30min layover at Dubai and then a 7h20min flight to Paris CDG. My co-passenger was an air hostess who was on her last day of work with Emirates. She shared her experiences in India and also helped me with some French.
There was a short wait at the immigration and the baggage collection, we all dispersed to our respective modes of transport. It was sad watching a rider from Chennai losing his baggage due to theft. Shajesh, my college senior and busmate had come to pick me up and Karthik joined us. It felt amazing wandering through taking the local trains.
Karthik left at his stop and we got down 2 stops later. Little did I know that Shajesh’s place was still 2 bus rides followed by a kilometre long walk all with my luggage and bike box in had. I had a couple of rotis while Shajesh gave me a spare sim card he had. It took no time to fall asleep after an exhausting day in 3 different countries : D
August 15th || Paris => Plaisir
We woke up around 7am and after getting ready, we reached the nearest decathlon and bought a tool kit and a cycle lock, and checked if any personnel could help me with reassembling the bike for which he quoted 50 euros. Meh!
Shajesh got some croissants and while having them, he went through all the cab apps and trains, maps, etc. We bid adieu and I hoped onto a train for Plaisir. I booked a cab on Uber once I reached Plaisir and a friendly Uber driver, Susmoy turned up. He was kind enough to put my bike box in the back seat which most don’t do and you need to book a truck to accommodate the bike box.
The automated check-in at the hotel amazed me and the homely room and the quiet neighborhood brought me a peaceful feeling. After a quick shower, I met with other Indian riders at the hotel and my roommate Sunil Kumar Dekka, a naval officer arrived. I fixed my bike and phew! no weird noises anywhere during the test ride. Finally, we had a filling dinner at Buffalo Grill which was 500 metres away.
August 16th || Roaming Around
We were around 10 riders from India in that hotel and we planned on going visiting the Eiffel tower in the morning. The ride was very peaceful with splendid cycling paths with exclusive bike signals. Trust me, you’ll have this positive and grateful overwhelming feeling when you ride through them for the first time.
I had estimated the ride to be around 3 hours for the 60 km ride but the rolling terrain and trail paths didn’t allow us to go in the 25 kmph pace I was expecting. The problem was with my bad choice of hotel bookings for a cheaper price. I was to checkout from the current hotel at 12pm and move to another.
I rushed back midway without visiting the Eiffel tower, carry the packed luggage on my bike to Kyriad which was 2.5 kms away. I cursed myself for the poor planning I did with the bookings throughout the transition.
Though Kyriad was looking amazing, I felt very dumb when I didn’t realize where the entrance was. Another quick shower and unpacking was followed by some lunch at a nearby Indian restaurant whose owner was very friendly. I had the lunch alone as Sunil had to visit the airport because his bike was not delivered yet.
Post lunch I went the nearby Decathlon, wondering if there’s anything else to buy considering the chilly weather. But as soon as I got into the Euro -> Rupee conversion, I decided otherwise after checking a wind cheater and gloves. Sunil joined me and we had pretty bad dinner at KFC. The ride back to the hotel in the night was amazing with slight drizzles and good cycling paths.
August 17th || Bike Check Day
Ramboillet, the start point was 30km away and it began drizzling as soon as I started. I was riding alone for half of the distance and it felt very distressing as I was riding empty stomach. But a couple on tandem passed by me and I started riding behind them. We exchanged smiles and I drafted till I reached the start point. I was fortunate enough to reach early as there was no checking of the actual time of bike check. Now it was just First in First Out.
I finished my bike check and collected my vest and BIB’s and had a good chat with Salil, who was waiting for his wife to pick up the BIB and come back. Later, I met Gautam Narne and Bachi. They were buying Gore jackets and I checked the prices and ignored what I just saw. The atmosphere was electric with many riders from around the world and I got to see amazing bikes.
I exited the venue as I was getting irritated by hunger and had pretty decent sandwich at a kebab center. I was visibly excited when I saw Hemanth, Raja Sabaresh, Krishna Kunnam and Rajesh Krishnamaneni walking through the street. I met them and had lunch at an Indian restaurant and went to their Airbnb. It was pretty nice and cosy. Sunder Kumar Ravella was also there. They shared some race strategies and maps for navigation.
I had earlier booked a drop bag facility with JFT. I could give them my essentials and it would be provided to me at 445km and 785km. Chaitanya came along with Karthik to give his bag as I was sharing the drop bag with him. I then went to Jeff around 4pm and dropped my bag. We both had a picture together and he humorously added if I wanted to take a picture with his beautiful daughter.
Most of our Indian and Hyderabad Randonnuers were there and we had some lighter moments before starting back around 6pm. We took the train and got down at the Plaisir and went for dinner at the same Indian restaurant. Sunil and I had good biryani and banter with fellow Indian riders present there. We took a parcel to our neighbour riders at Kyriad, Rohit and Aman.
August 18th || Race Day
The receptionist at Kyriad had accepted our request to hold our luggage in their storehouse. We got down all the luggage, clicked some pictures and
moved to the station. The 4 of us took the train and reached Ramboillet around 12-1pm. The bustling riders were giving me constant shots of adrenaline.
Rohit surprised us that his friend from his MBA stays in Ramboillet. She was more than happy to host us for lunch, and get a parcel from the Indian restaurant where I had lunch earlier on bike check day, by the time we reach her place.
We had a rather heavy lunch with some wine, lassi and cake. It was a very endearing family of 5. We proceeded to the start point and reached by 4pm-5pm. We 4 lost track of each other. Aman and Rohit had 5:45 start time, I had 6:00 start time and Sunil had around 7pm. I thought of taking a nap but realized my chain had a bit of dirt. I cleaned and lubed it.
I stood in my I lane and realised I was at the back. My ride strategy was to follow Sanjay and Prithvi, both strong riders and always together. They were way front in line. I sent in a couple of messages in the our PBP-Hyd group and 5 minutes before the start I realized the balance was out. I called Shajesh and asked to recharge. And till then, I would not be able to contact my fellow riders.
What a bummer! How will contact my friends?
Bad sign for what’s ahead? …