Go Go Goa!!
The fifth edition of Tour of Goa, organized by Cycling Goa was flagged off from the Miramar beach circle. It is a 3 day cyclo-sportive with touring on the country roads of South Goa with a small competitive section of individual time trial each day.
About 40 riders from across the country and various parts of the world landed at, YMCA in Panjim, Goa, to experience the magical beauty of the state along with the amazing hospitality of the Goan Cycling Community, the Cycling Goa!
The tour was flagged off from the Miramar beach circle with the joyous applause of a few locals. The contrast of the morning chill in the air and the warm breath in our lungs was evident through the tiny clouds our nostrils were making as we started riding.
The beauty of South Goa, far removed from the party buzz of the Northern part of the state, was already evident as we rode alongside the majestic Mandovi river. It was a sight to behold as our peloton rode on with the calm body of water on one side of the road and with the great ball of fire raising from the other.
Our first stop was at the famous Old Goa Church for a quick regroup and a group picture. The Basilica of Bom Jesus is a Roman Catholic Church and a world heritage site. A majestic structure, this Jesuit church is India’s first minor basilica and is considered one of the finest examples of Baroque architecture and Portuguese Colonial architecture in India.
From there we headed to Madkai ferry to cross the river along with our bikes on a special ferry arranged by Cycling Goa. On the way to the ferry we were made to go up a 1km climb and immediately the climbing legs amongst the group started making a statement of intent.
My Spectrum racing teammates, Rajesh Nair and Arvind Bhateja along with Vivek Bhateja were flying up the steep kicker and I tried to follow them dancing away on the pedals. It was a nice warm up to the kickers that followed and the day’s competitive segment which was a 5km 280m climb up Chandreswar climb.
It’s A Ferry Tale!
We enjoyed our packed breakfast on the ferry as we made it across the river. It was quite an unique experience for most of us and was just one of the many unique experiences that the Tour of Goa had to offer.After the ferry crossing we rode for another 16km before we stopped at Anjona bakery to enjoy more local delicacies and coffee. From there the day’s competitive segment, the Chandreswar climb was about another 16km. We got there around 11:30am and we began to feel the Goan heat bearing down on us.
A quick Strava segment analysis from our experts said that the competitive segment of nearly 5km has a the actual climb segment of 4.1km with a KOM at 13:37 held by Rohan Muller. Rohan wasn’t taking part this year. But, for those who knew him, his performance gave us an idea about what to expect from ourselves on the climb.
Competitive Segment! Finding The Rhythm!
I volunteered to start ahead of our skipper Arvind Bhateja to act as his carrot on the climb while Rajesh Nair would start behind him to try and catch him. That way all three of us will end up motivating each other as we gave our best on the climb.I was the first rider to line up and started the flat segment trying to get the feel of the legs and not push too much right away. The legs felt good but I knew if I went too hard at the start, it would be difficult to recover even on a 15 min climb. After nearly 2 mins, I got to the climb portion of the segment and got into a nice rhythm on the climb.
It was one of those days where you are in the zone. One of those rare days when you are at peace with the suffering and rather savor it. I decided to big ring it. I kept pounding away on the pedals in sync with the pounding heart and the panting lungs.After 5 mins, the power numbers on the screen validated that the hard sessions in the last few weeks paid off and the form improved a bit. They more or less remained in that range after 10 mins and I kept at it to keep them there even after 15 mins. The last part of the climb kicked up quite a bit and I had to change to small ring and get out of the saddle to sprint to the line! I stopped the clock at 16:48 for the whole segment and 14:37 for the climb portion. I was pretty satisfied with how much I suffered and with the numbers.After a few seconds, Arvind and Rajesh pretty much crossed the line together. Raj started a few seconds behind Arvind as planned and caught him near the line.
We were first, second and third to start the race and pretty much finished that way on the results overall. Rajesh and Arvind are in over 45 category and finished first and second in that category. It was great to see Rajesh riding strong again even though he’s not close to his best. Just a few weeks back, even the trip here was uncertain when he had a back injury and couldn’t even walk. The experience and the muscle memory along with the adrenaline saw him finish first in his category and second overall.I am pleased to be riding strong again and having fun.
I finished first in Open(under 45) category and overall for the day.In women’s category,
Su Yin Ong finished first on the climb. She was followed by Belinda Mueller. Su Yin must be in love with Goa with another win after her win in her age group at the Goa Ironman 70.3 last October.
After the competitive segment for lunch, we headed to Casa , a Palatial home built by a Portuguese preist in 1780s. It was bought by it’s current owner in 2002 who renovated it and is looking after it.
The lunch was a multi course affair with a cocum welcome drink followed by multiple starters and a soup before a vast spread for the main course and desserts! It was an amazing and quite a regal experience.
I wasn’t sure I could move after such an lovely lunch. We had another group picture in front of the Casa before we started riding the last 25k to reach our destination for the day, the Agonda beach.
25k had a few climbs and I was initially following my teammate, Russell Bell. The young man was too strong for me to follow after a lunch like that. I decided to hop on to Rajesh’s wheel as he has a more measured and smoother climbing style
After an amazing day of riding and mind blowing experiences, we reached our stay, Cuba Agonda Beach Shack on the Agonda beach. The sound of the ocean waves welcoming us was pure music to the ears. It felt like a surreal end to a surreal day. What a day to begin the tour!
A Bumper Hit: Take A Bow, Cycling Goa!
Day 1 of Tour of Goa was simply a mind blowing experience. The tour is a block-buster success already in my view. Take a bow Cycling Goa! You made me fall in love with cycling and Goa all over again. And we still have two more days in heaven. Can’t wait see what you have in store for us!