It's been the strangest day, as most days are that start at 3:30 am. Looking back, a lot of the morning is a bit out of focus and badly framed. I seem to remember my Dad telling me that the person flagging off the Tour is the Additional Director General of Police. "Additional" doesn't sound right and I'm too peaceful here under the big trees of the Windflower Resort to ask keen-eyed questions. His speech was short and pithy. I'm glad my parents came to see the flagging off of TFN even though they only returned from their Christmas party after one. I missed the magnificent sight of fifty-five cyclists sailing out of the gate together because I was worried about the confusion about my own transport, but I remember that many of Bangalore's cyclists enthusiastically escorted the official TFN riders for a while. But even that early, traffic separated and strung out the riders into a long, sparsely beaded chain. But we regrouped at Bangalore University and set out again in two batches; the Road Bikes were separated from the MTBs. This, I conclude, is because the Road Bikes are astoundingly fast.
I ended up in Vivek's personal support car, essentially shadowing him, and at one point he was doing 55km/h on a fairly flat road. I'm glad I was there. I saw the first leg of the Tour from the intense perspective of what it was like for one person. In the process I also gathered what it means to be a support vehicle for endurance riding. Water, juice, water, water, glucose, water, water, salted water, water, water, bananas, more diluted juice, water, water, energy bar, water. And one formal snack stop (where I think I was one of the first at the trough). The final climb, up Chamundi Hill (I want to say 1000 meters, but I could be wrong), was clearly as much a matter of mental endurance as physical.
The hardest part of my day was being cooped up in a car when others were out there riding in the open air. Following the nimble Road Bikes has the same hypnotic quality as watching dragonflies. Even during the struggle over the hill. On the occasional stops to render assistance and succour, the air was so refreshing outside, even in the surprisingly hot winter sun.
Fast facts: Mysore is elegant, serene and green. Mandya is still full of sugarcane fields. Chamundi Hill is full of pilgrims in dangerously driven taxis. According to Vaz's high-tech meter, he burnt 7641 calories today. The highways are as infested with lunatics as ever in motorised vehicles – one of them mangled Seema's Specialized; the only reason she's alive and riding tomorrow is her helmet.
I wish, I wish, I wish I was riding.
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