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  • Writer's pictureBrijesh Balakrishnan

Arabian Nights 200 km Brevet

Separated by about 2 decades each, three women caught our attenton last weekend. Sulatha Kamath in her mid 60s, Padma Priya in her early 40s and Nithya Bhat in her late 20s. One owned a tea stall in a non-descript location on the Udupi- Uchilla main road, another a consular manager at Australian consulate office at Chennai, while the 3rd was Human Resources manager at a consulting firm in Mangalore. It was the passion for sports, the desire to explore, and the grit to perform that was firing equally in these three noteworthy women. Arabian Nights brevet organized by the Mangalore Cycling Club on 8th April 2017, brought these 3 women together. You don’t need an International Women’s Day to celebrate, recognize and be inspired by the amazing women around you – they are part of every day life!

Arabian Nights brevet, the 200 kms randonneuring event, a long distance cycling sport with origins in France and governed by Audax Club Parisien attracted the highest participation till date amongst all brevet events the costal city of Mangalore has conducted. More than 50 cyclists from across the country - planters and doctors from the coffee estates of Chickmagalur, Phd student from the ancient city of Madurai, young minds from Manipal the rocky hinterland of coastal Karnataka, passionate souls from the temple town of Udupi joined the energetic crowd of namma Kudla’s cycling club members. Flagged off at 5.30 pm from Car Spa outlet in Mannuguda, the 200 kms brevet had the 13.5 hours cut off time at 7 am on Sunday.

The route and the all night ride presented the true flavor of this serene costal city to the riders, cruising thru the beach road of Bengre, passing through the temple bells of Udupi and taking the mid point cross over at the spice land of Kundapura. 200 kms in the rolling terrains of the costal roads, head winds and a ride skipping the entire night’s sleep is no mean task. A clear focus on the result, the pride of a Randonnuer badge and desire to bring out the best powered each one of us ahead. The surprise rains at midnight also brought along blissful relief from the sweltering heat and its own charm. Professional support by the volunteers made this event a grand success.

For 11 of us riders, this was a special ride as we aimed to attain the coveted Super Randonnuer title, for competing a series of 200, 300, 400 and 600 kilometer within the same season. I’ll take a moment and introduce you to the special 11 Namma Kudla boys: Sarvesh, Shyam, Anil, Ashok, Hari, Alan, Chinmay, Nitin, Brijesh and two Shiva’s for added power. This is a fabulous achievement for the Mangalore Club as the Brevet was introduced only a year ago.

Somewhere around midnight, while I knew we were only hours away from the coveted Super Randonneur title, at a coffee break, I met up with Padma Priya. Enquiring about her reason for riding on the more difficult Mountain Bike, I unraveled her story. A biker for 4 years, she told me how this was her 6th Super Randonneur title in the making and how she was experimenting with this bike. She also told me how she had also done a recent 1,000km ride and on enquiring further she mentioned she had completed 3 other 1,000km rides in the past. While I walked away from that conversation inspired, I confess, I did work hard at not choking over a gulp a few times during this conversation.

Nithya, I had met about a year ago and was amazed at her passion for cycling and her story of how she was advised avoiding long distance riding because of a knee injury. A little after my coffee conversation, when I thought I needed no more caffeine for the rest of my journey, I noticed Nithya. After meeting her doctor, she embarked on this 200 km ride and at 75kms, she realized that she may not be able to complete the 200. She pushed herself another 25 to complete the century. I’ve known of physical strength, but have to confess that it is absolutely inspirational to see a mental make up of this caliber.

The goal is a focus, but there is pleasure in the journey as well. This is an experience you realize when you take these long rides. Just as we here heading home, the team decided an excuse of caffeine for a break would work as a celebration. A lonely stretch, we weren’t sure where we would ever find coffee on this Uchilla main road, and that’s where we saw a lone light of a small store in the distance. Sulatha, our host that evening offered us coffee and stories. She told us of her International achievement in athletics, her circumstances and how she got permissions to run her coffee shop 24 hours to eke an income that supports her passion. She continues to run, at times barefoot, and win races. A 65 year old who is fuelled by her passion for sports, Sulatha ensured that for the rest of the ride, we floated our way to the finish line.

This is just the beginning – Mangalore has woken up to the new health routine. The number of people taking up cycling as a part of their exercise and fitness routine is increasing. We are more than 500 registered cyclists and growing in numbers and passion by the day. The numbers we will track, the brevets and cycling events we will count. But as I sign off, I wonder if there is a measure for passion. Passion that is inspired by every day people.

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