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A holiday well spent

Breathing the cool morning air

Breathing the cool morning air  

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An early morning cycling trip was the perfect start to Republic Day

Republic Day always reminds me of my boarding school. As a member of the National Cadet Corps, I was expected to assemble in the ground at sunrise for the parade and flag hoisting. The chief guest would be an army officer from nearby Wellington. The memory of the fervour and pride with which he hoisted the flag and spoke to us about being responsible citizens is still fresh.

It’s been a few decades since I had to jump out of bed and be ready by 6.00 a.m. on Republic day. This year, it was a 100km ride to celebrate the adoption of the Constitution 66 years ago. This trip had been organised by Coimbatore Cycling. We assembled at a house in Krishnasamy Nagar, which has been converted into a cycling enthusiast’s hangout called Cycology.

It was still dark when I arrived at 5.45am. The house was buzzing with people of all ages already assembled ready to start. There were bikes of all kinds — mountain bikes, hybrids and roadies of assorted colours and sizes with tail lights winking. We were offered boiled potatoes to stock up on calories and the ride was flagged off.

The first leg was till Lakshmi Mills Junction. There we took a ‘U’ turn and headed back to the Ramanathapuram signal. It was dawn by the time we reached Chettipalayam. The city was shrouded in a slight haze and the morning air had a nip. The roads were traffic-free except for an occasional vendor on his two-wheeler or the ubiquitous tempo.

We were just basking in the glory of the morning sunrise when one of the riders had to stop with a flat tyre. Thanks to the on-road support vehicle, the rider was back on his seat pretty soon. It was a perfect opportunity for that perfect DP to share on social media.

Once back on our bikes, we wound our way via Pappampatti and Karanampettai, en route to Palladam. Towering windmills dotted the landscape with their gigantic arms revolving in the early morning breeze. The headwind made pedalling difficult and the windmills seemed to be mocking us as they gained speed. A couple of kilometres later, yellow maize fields bordered the road and a few peacocks were pecking at grains while squawking at the sky. The sight of a rider ahead with his arms outstretched — hands off the handle bar — embracing the rush of air was, to me, the defining image of the ride.

Meanwhile, the riders had fanned out along the route in groups according to their pace. It was 8.45 a.m. by the time we reached Palladam, the halfway point where we took a much-needed break. The on-road support vehicle provided us with bananas, boiled potatoes, electrolytes and sweets to replenish our depleted energy levels. Photography time again and smartphones were whipped out to capture the various poses.

After a 10-minute break, we started our ride back. School children, who were returning from school after hoisting the flag, seemed amused when told that this was not a race but just a leisure ride. There was a stiff competition among then to get the maximum number of hi-fives from passing riders. Their loud cheers and the joy on their faces was a boost to our sagging energy. Midway, we slowed to pay our respects to the flag being hosted along the roadside by a crowd of dhoti-clad men.

A quick snack break to replenish our energy stores and we were back in the hustle and bustle of the city. Manoeuvring our way through the traffic and din left us wishing for dedicated cycling tracks to enjoy our passion and to do our bit to conserve energy and reduce pollution. Happiness was writ on the faces of all finishers, especially 14-year-old Bharathi who managed to complete 50 km for the first time. A beaming smile and the proud look on her mother’s face summed it up ... A Republic day well spent!

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Printable version | Dec 10, 2019 7:47:49 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/a-cycling-trip-on-republic-day/article8188050.ece

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