As an ex-inmate of an ad agency I've always seen press conferences from a strange angle - an uncomfortable one, the sort that gives you a pain in the neck and offers a rather jaundiced view of the proceedings. This is the first time I've been on the side that was making the news, experiencing the pride and glory.
Watching the TFN conference, I had the feeling I remember from my time spent backstage – watching the house fill up on opening night, there was always a specific moment for me that was the point of no return, when I knew the show must go on now, regardless. At that point, the crazy adrenaline spurts calmed to one focused flow and training took over. I wonder if the organisers and the cyclists of TFN felt that way today.
For me there were a lot of new images, words, concepts. The enthusiam in Iggy and Vasu when they insisted on introducing me to a Colnago before I'd been there two minutes. Vaz who drove down from Chennai but will ride back in the new year on his new Trek. Arun saying that we've all driven through the Nilgiris but on this trip we get to touch it, smell it, savour it. The fact that 3500 litres of Aquafina will go with us. The real emotion in Ravi's voice when he said that part of the ride would be a category-three climb, a type that features in the great Tour (at Cote de Chatillon-sur-Cluses, to be exact). The very cool Manipal ambulance stealing the show. The flavour of Nilgiris' flaky pastry that is really the taste of waiting with friends for a movie at Rex on Brigade road. Through it all, the silent, purposeful cameras of Hrish and Moti.
Pradeep handing around Christmas cake. Diksha, taking the time to ride at least a part of the tour in spite of having exams. The general sense of camaraderie and effervescence. Learning that Venky, who I will inadequately describe as a professional cyclist, has lent no less than five high-end bicycles to the tour. The reporter from the Times asking how many present cycle to work every day and almost all hands in the air. The surreal backdrop of the Cake Show, which should really be called the Sugar Show; the more fantastic creations are made of little else.
Mostly, it's an uneditable slideshow in my head, but what stands out sharp and shining in the afternoon sun are the machines. Today there were two Meridas, two Specialized, two Colnagos and one Trek. Bicycles of all descriptions, that bear as much relation to the ones we rode to school on as my little hatchback does to a McClaren Road Car. They are all fascinating, they are fluid, they are beautiful. But with a silent apology to the trusty BSA SLR that I lived on for 10 years, I gave my heart to the Colnago. It is, unsurprisingly, Italian.
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