The idea of riding my cycle to the Wagah border was pretty exciting. It is an historic location no doubt but to ride a 1000kms brevet from New Delhi to Wagah and back, well historic also became epic. After having finished the Kittur 1000 strongly in 72hrs in Dec ’17, this was supposed to be a cake walk or should I say cake ride. Most of south India is known for its undulating terrain. During the Kittur 1000 we gained about 8500mtrs in total elevation. Compared to that the Wagah 1000 was around 1800mtrs. That, to me is flat!! Couple that with mild winds on the way out and mild tail winds on the return leg, I mean, I was planning a 65hr finish.
I arrived in Delhi on the 1st of March, couple of days from the Wagah 1000 start, scheduled on the 3rd. I was prepared mentally as the Kittur 1000 just 3 months back, was still fresh in my memory, even though I had not ridden my cycle for nearly two weeks, it didn’t bother me much. I bunked at Shravani’s. Yes the same Shravani from the Kittur 1000. The whole of that day went in visiting a cousin and doing my duties as a good relative. That day I slept with the thought of how much I can dislike Delhi. From the really thick pollution in the air, to getting balloons thrown at twice (yes, this was a day prior to Holi), to people speaking so loudly in a metro as if no one else was even there. Seemed, as though people just couldn’t mind their own business and had a terrible need to poke around.
Anyways, after a relatively peaceful next day, putting my bike together, staying indoors, strategizing and planning, 12 riders were flagged off from India gate for an epic journey on our cycles on the 3rd of March ‘17. Remember the 65hr completion target that I had in mind, well, Shrav just shot the idea down. She warned me about the head winds, the terrain and the hot weather. To add to that, it wasn’t safe riding long hours in the night. The Haryana-Punjab belt is seemingly notorious during the nights. I still had my doubts about the terrain. I mean, Shrav had warned me about the flyovers, but how difficult can flyovers be? Trusting she knew better, we revised our target to a 70hr finish. I literally had a smile on my face for the first 100kms. It was flat as a carom board. I dint even break a drop of sweat. There was an occasional flyover or two but come-on, nothing could wipe that smile off my face.
All that changed from Panipat. Flyover after flyover, relentless for the next 250 odd kilometers. There are easily over a 150-160+ flyovers. The real issue is that most riding apps or mapping apps don’t consider flyovers for elevation gain, but trust me, if they did, the total elevation gain would easily be over 5000mtrs. While passing through the historic cities of Panipat and Kurukshetra, thinking of all the battles that waged here shaping our country’s future, we were battling the flyovers that would reshape the intensity of this brevet. We arrived at Hotel Majestic Grand near Jalandhar at the 378kms mark at 1:20am. More than an hour later than our plan. Of course, Shrav and I were joined by Prasun and a gang of 4 riders from Punjab lovingly known as the Punjab Express. From a safety perspective this was reassuring that our plans to regroup and ride together in the nights worked out well.
The 2nd leg of our ride was no different for the first 130kms. More flyovers and slightly stronger winds. But I was really looking forward to getting to the Wagah border. I had no idea how I would feel when I got there. There would certainly be a feeling of relief as that was the U-turn point and also may be the point where the winds would get behind us. The thoughts of the winds and the flyovers vanished for some time as we approached the border. I could see the India and Pakistan flags from 8-9kms away. And suddenly there was this feeling of strong patriotism that took over. I kept thinking of all the wars that have ragged between India and Pakistan, all the terrorism, all the cross border firings, all the ceasefire treaty violations from Pakistan that continue to happen. I also thought of the movies like Veer-Zaara, Border and Bajrangi Bhaijaan and as I got closer to the border, to see that everything is the same on the other side. The roads, the air, the trees, the fields and yet the people and their choices made me feel super proud that I was on this side of the line. An Indian!
I was ready for the tailwinds and the 500Kms back to Delhi. The tailwinds (more like tail-breeze) did come after 35odd kilometers. We arrived at Hotel Lamellez in Ludhiana a little before 1am covering 300kms during the 2nd leg of our rides. We knew, the third leg will not be easy. Tired legs, sleepless minds, the heat and the flyovers would take a toll during the last 325Kms. Shravani and I started at 5:30am and we rode with a new strategy. Avoid the flyovers by taking the service road. It worked brilliantly. We avoided almost all the flyovers for more than 200kms.
Some of the other riders say they prefer the flyovers as they have to put an effort for 300mtrs and the remaining 300mtrs is going down. But in my opinion, they are momentum breakers and 150 of them can prove to be spirit breakers when you riding the last leg of a 1000kms brevet. Well, every rider has his/her preferences and if you prefer to make your ride comfortable, take my advice, avoid the flyovers by taking the service road as much as you can. After Panipat, just like while going to Wagah, it was flat all the way to Delhi. 69hrs45mins later from when we started we reached Delhi at 1:45am covering a total distance of 1005kms.
Everything about this brevet was epic. The many flyovers, the many parathas that I had in all the dhabas, the lush green fields of Punjab (just like in the movies), the flat terrain, the cold nights and hot days-simply epic!! The relentless support from Chiro and Satish, support from some of the veteran randonneurs in Punjab. I mean those guys just opened their hearts out to cheer us, provide us food at 1am on day 2, again simply epic. The fellow riders, Prasun, Dr. Vikram, Vijay Mittal (63years of age) they are just some of the most warm and welcoming people I have met. Thank you for riding with us during the nights. I take back special memories and friendships from this ride. Also, a special mention for this rider, Shankar. A young cycle mechanic who rode a single speed, old school Atlas cycle and finished it 3hrs before us. A big kudos to you man and wishing you many more happy miles.
To those of you randonneurs and aspiring 1000km riders reading this post, the Wagah 1000 needs to be added to your list! Think about it.