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"Story - 944kms, 120 riders, 3 Nilgiri states - A Cycling Bucket List"

944kms, 120 riders, 3 Nilgiri states - A Cycling Bucket List
Venkateswara Rao Navanasi
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Venkateswara Rao Navanasi
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In 2008, in the process of regaining his health, battling asthma and obesity, Venkateswara Rao Navanasi a.k.a BikeyVenky managed to lose 16 kg (From 92kgs to 76kgs) and was looking for ways to keep those extra kilos of flab permanently off. That is when he picked up cycling as a way of exercise that is integrated into daily commute to the office. Incidentally, the same year, a cycling tour in the Western Ghats took shape by the name Tour of Nilgiris. The idea of riding hundreds of kilometers on a cycle, day after day, in some of the most beautiful of hilly terrains, felt absolutely captivating and sounded incredibly challenging at the time. So, Tour of Nilgiris immediately made it to Venky’s bucket list.
Although it made it to his bucket list, Venky was not sure he was ready for what seemed to be such a challenging tour yet. In December 2010, he moved to Bangalore from Hyderabad on a new job. A couple of weeks later, he met the riders from the tour at that year’s TfN cool off party. Meeting them and hearing all their stories first-hand was incredibly inspiring. By the time he left that party, Venky decided that he was going to tick Tour of Nilgiris off his bucket list by December 2011

 It was not until he gathered the courage to sign up and his application was accepted in June 2011, that it became very real. The prospect of the tour really scared Venky. Finally, he was going to ride the tour that he had been dreaming of riding from the time he picked up a bicycle again as an adult.

Till that time, Venky used to commute to the office on his cycle on weekdays and go for long rides on weekends. From the time he signed up for his first tour, he started training 4-5 days a week apart from the daily commutes. In the 6 months leading up to Tour of Nilgiris-2011, he managed to ride around 10,000km as a part of preparation. 
TfN motivated me to get out and ride, rain or shine. In the process, I have lost another 12 kg (From 78 to 66kgs). Having Tour of Nilgiris on my bucket list acted as an incredible motivator for me and helped me get stronger.”
The First Tour

The tour itself was an incredible experience for him. Every bit as he has expected and more. He got to meet and share the road with some of the most amazing riders from all walks of life. It was a life-changing experience in more ways than one. The incredible beauty of the Nilgiris, the amazing kinship of the riders and the friendships that have been forged over the course of 900 odd kilometres riding over 8 days left an indelible impression on Venky.
That meant that although I thought I will be ticking it off my bucket list in 2011, Tour of Nilgiris found an almost permanent spot on that list. Ever since my first tour in 2011, I have been going back to do the tour every year.
Tour of Nilgiris 2016

It was an 8-day tour – between December 16 and 23, 2016. There were 108 participants, of which 99 were men and 9 women. In all, they pedaled 910 km through different terrains across Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, and Kerala. The race was tough and Venky finished first in Master’s category (35+).

Route Map

Starting from Bengaluru, cyclists pedaled to Mysuru on Day one and then went to Kalpetta on Day 2. From Kalpetta, cyclists on Day 3 pedaled to Ooty. After a day’s rest, on Day 5 cyclists pedaled to Manjur in the Ooty district and stayed back in Ooty for the night. On Day 6, cyclists pedaled from Ooty to Palakkad and after an overnight stay there on Day 7 pedaled to Valparai. On the final day, cyclists pedaled to Pollachi to finish the tour.
2016 TFN was special in many ways for me. Not only did I finish first in 35+ category second time in a row, but also my teammate and skipper at Spectrum Racing, Arvind Bhateja has won 45+ age category on the penultimate day of the tour on Valparai climb. It was a close fight between Arvind and his close competitor Richard Muller. To come from behind and win on the last climb of the tour was super thrilling to watch.”
Venky says that the Tour of Nilgiris 2016 was an exciting tour right from the start both on the riding and racing part as well as the fun and food aspect. The introduction of TFN Food Truck for lunch that year was another masterstroke from the organizers who are always on a lookout for ways to improve the experience for the riders. Freshly cooked food served hot in the middle of hard rides was quite rejuvenating for all the riders. It doesn’t mean that they missed trying out local delicacies.
TfN 2017 Could Be Your Bucket List Too!

This year’s 10th edition of Tour of Nilgiris (TfN 2017) will be Venky’s 7th year in a row. It is happening from December 10 to 17. Every year, the tour feels tougher and more enjoyable with new route additions, new challenges, new riders and new friends.

The adventurous tour attracts cyclists from across the world and TfN 2017 will take 120 cyclists from various geographies coming in to ride and test their own endurance across the challenge and the beauty that the Western Ghats offer.
The Route Map Of TfN 2017

The route this year, starts off at Bangalore and traverses through the princely state of Mysore, before rolling into Coorg, the land known for its coffee and hockey. The tour has a race format built into it for the competitive souls who come. Every day has certain segments of the routes which are considered as race segments and are timed. The winners in each category will be determined by the cumulative time over the 8 days.
I was able to finish first in Master’s category (35+) in 2015 and 2016. Will I be able to repeat it a 3rd time? It does look incredibly tough with the level or riders this year being very high this year. But, let me add that to my bucket list this year and let’s see how it goes.”
From Coorg and its renowned coffee estates, the riders will make way through the winding roads into Kerala and then head into Tamil Nadu. Riding through the forest sections of Madhumalai always brings in the exciting possibility of encounters with wild elephants or bears although they are always escorted safely during that section and ride in large groups.

Tamil Nadu is going to be an amazing experience as they’ll be exploring the hills around Ooty for 3-4 days. The beauty of the mountains, the winding roads through the tea estates and the incredible pristine nature of the terrain will make the ride more interesting and engaging.
Next Bucket List Items

Other things on Venky’s bucket list are qualifying for UCI Gandfondo series finals for 2018 and riding Giro Delli Dolomiti (an event very similar to TFN) in Italy in the coming years. I would love to see more events like Tour of Nilgiris in India and contribute to the growth of Cycling in India.

How about adding Tour of Nilgiris to your bucket list?! Share your amazing bucket list ideas with us. If you are somebody who has already accomplished any of your bucket list journeys, let us know. We will give you a platform to tell your bucket list experience to the world!

Venkateswara Rao Navanasi a.k.a BikeyVenky for his cycling friends is an amateur cyclist and mentor/coach for amateur cyclists. He is a father of two boys and when not on the bike or busy chasing his boys on their cycles, works full-time crunching data in Analytics Center of Excellence in Bangalore for the biggest bank in Denmark.
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