When ideas turn into reality, it is success, but when dreams get realised, it is fulfilment of life’s purpose and all of a sudden, life seems to be wonderful!! I witnessed such a moment at 8.20 am on 5th November 2017, when Ms. Divya Tate, the race director of Inspire India (www.inspire-india.in), presented my team ‘Baba’s Angels’ with the finisher medals for having completed one of the most gruelling Ultra Races in India, the Deccan Cliffhanger (www.inspire-india.in/the-deccan-cliffhanger), well within the official cut-off time. To be precise, 24 hours 14 minutes against the cut-off time of 31 hours.
Deccan Cliffhanger is one of the first & most popular Ultra-Races in India, which is an annual 643 km (400 mile) Ultra Cycling Race from Pune to Goa, organised by Inspire India. The Solo Race is a RAAM Qualifier (Race Across America www.raceacrossamerica.org) and the Relay event is RAAM style. This event is on the Ultra Marathon Cycling Association (UMCA) calendar, the leading international organization dedicated to Ultra-Cycling.
Dreaming the dream
A couple of years ago when I was reading an article about Deccan Cliffhanger, I was laughing at the cyclists who were going to attempt, but was always excited to read about their achievements, preparation, planning, overcoming their pain and suffering in reaching the goals. For a novice rider like me, such a long-distance race was beyond imagination!! But at some corner of my mind I felt if others can do it, can I at least dream of it?
With the progression of time, knowingly or unknowingly, my cycling activities started getting a little thoughtful. The casual morning rides got extended to weekend long rides. Happy tours became a little serious with many challenging segments included in it. Then came Audax BRMs, which became a regular feature in our monthly cycling schedule. During April 2017, we graduated from a Randonneur (a person who has completed 200 km ride), to Super Randonneur (a person who has completed 200 km, 300 km, 400 km & 600 km rides within a year).
So what next? A Road Race, Time Trial, an Ultra-Cycling Race? Hmmm . . . why not? so was born the dream!!
Sowing the seeds
To focus on the objective of encouraging a culture of competitive cycling in our region, some of us, likeminded cycling enthusiasts came together to form 'WE R Cycling’ (Workouts, Endurance & Races @ www.wercycling.com), with a goal to elevate talented local cyclists to the national & international cycling stage, and participate in races, brevets, tours, etc.
The dream began shaping up when some of the youngsters accepting the challenge of taking part in an Ultra-Race were immediately on board. Our chief architect, Sudhir Albuquerque who was overseeing all these, came up with a novel idea that why not a senior team!! Quickly, some of the regular riders were pursued to consider this and in no time, we too formed the team ‘Baba’s Angels’ with the fast & furious Ashok Lobo - the youngest rider of the team, the iron man of Mangalore Cycling fraternity - Shyamprasad Nayak, the busy bee & tough nut to crack - Brijesh Balakrishnan and the happy go lucky me!!
An Ultra-Race of national / international importance, requires some level of preparation, sincere effort and so came the megamind of the team Ashwath Rasquinha, with long list of to dos. A coach, ride plans, nutrition etc. Looking at our enthusiasm, Gratian Govais was kind enough to accept our invite and agreed to train us for the event.
The Reality check
Coach Gratian arrived in Mangalore along with one of his disciple Padma Priya, an executive working in a consulate and 6 times Super Randonneur!! Within an hour of first interaction with us, the coach had turned ourselves upside down, changing everything that we have been doing so far, right from the way we sit on the bike, the posture, the saddle height, the way we pedal, the way we bend our elbow to the way we wear our jersey & bibs!! A test ride in the evening and that’s it, a total reality check. Next morning, it was time to test waters with beach workouts. ½ set into the session, we all were gasping for breath, every part of our body transgressing through the pain cave!!
Thus, began our new regime of race preparation, 2 days of beach workout, 2 days of interval training and back to back long rides of 100 km + on the weekends, drink ensure during the ride & after the ride, 8 hours of minimum sleep per day, no oily food, no hanging out. Every 15 days, coarse corrections by the Coach!!
Getting a glimpse of what a pro-training is all about, we made our sincere effort to follow the schedule. 3 months into the regime, these efforts started yielding better results in terms of our ride speeds and endurance needs!! This tough physical effort took a toll on my body and I was forced to abandon all physical activities in the run-up to the DC. I was worried whether my efforts gone waste? Would I be able to ride? Am I going to be a burden on my team?? However, God had better plans and I was destined to be part of the DC 2017. 1 week before the big day, I could recover, albeit not fully fit ☹
While riders were going through the grind, the support team was putting together the DC plan as per the rules & regulations of the event including event registration, budgeting & costing, the nutrition & hydration requirements, food & accommodation, support vehicles & crew, riders’ essentials, route check and individual rider’s ride plan. We had several evening meetings, talks & briefing sessions, sometimes at our Chief’s residence and other times at Taj Cycles.
With loads of hard work, good wishes, aspirations and expectations, team WERC left for Pune on 2nd November 2017. Travelling through Goa, we all reached Pune at 7 am on 3rd November 2017. By 11 am, we all went to the venue for bike inspection & briefing and returned to our guest house by evening after ticking on all the pre-race checklist.
By 9 pm, we all settled down for the much-needed sleep.
Early hours of 4th November 2017 saw a sea of cyclists with all the fancy bikes, support cars and crew arriving at The Cliff, Bhugaon for the flag-off.
In this 5th edition of Deccan Cliffhanger, the event saw a record number of participation, including 9 women, 36 solo, 7 team of 2 members each, 9 teams of 3 members each, 20 teams of 4 riders each grouped in mixed, 18 - 35 yr age and 35 - 49 yr age categories. The Solo category was flagged off at 5:30 am followed by teams starting from 7:30 am onwards.
Our team tagged T-421, left the venue at 7:57 am with our ace rider Ashok spinning off the wheels, followed by Shyam sir on the Climbs, Brijesh on the highway and me on the rolling terrain. Starting from the buzzing township in Pune, the cycle race passed through challenging terrains of Katraj, Kambatki ghat, Pasarni, spectacular descent through Medha ghat, extreme heat and winds on the NH4 from Satara to Dharwad. We took turns every 15 ~ 20 km or the moment a rider started dropping the shoulders. Upon completing individual rides, riders took care of the nutrition from the main or follow-up cars. The heat and cross winds on NH4 drained most of the riders, sucking out all our energy. Once we reached the control point in Dharwad, things started turning around. The chill & cold weather of Anshi Tiger reserve, the anxiety to spot a wild animal and the calm full moon night kept us awake as we started pushing harder. It was a treat to watch Ashok descending the Anmol Ghat and Shyam sir spinning on the roller coaster Mollem terrain. Before the first rays of sun hit the Goan sands, we had reached Panaji!!
30 km to the finishing point @ John’s Seagull Bogmolo beach, the follow-up car in which I was travelling lost our way. I was the change over rider for the next 20 km. Luckily, Shyam sir took care of it and we were back in shape sooner than later. The race was finished off with Ashok sprinting to the finish point @ 8:11 am
The junior team under 18 - 35 yr category comprising of Dr. Koushik Sargod, Krishna Kumar, Shashank Pal, Nithin Mohan finished the event stronger, at 3rd overall position with a timing of 23 hours 23 minutes against the cut-off time of 30 hours.
Dhanraj Karkera, who represented under Solo category, which is also a Race Across America (RAAM) qualifier, had to discontinue due to physical illness. Dhanraj was one amongst 2 riders out of 17 riders, who had completed the 1,200 km endurance ride, called Bliss in the Hills, recently. Dhanraj, a marine engineer, vouched to come back stronger & smarter in the next editions of Ultra Race.
Our crew team included Sudhir Albuquerque the Chief, Ashwath Rasquina the Megamind, Mubeen Shaikh the Handler, Harivijay Kudva the Data Analyst, Shivananda Rao the Babaji, Anish Lobo the Night Owl, Deepak Hebbar the Hydration Expert, Barani the Nutritionist and Chandru the All Rounder.
For the first time, 9 riders from Mangalore were taking part in the Deccan Cliffhanger. It was not only a moment of pride for us but for our members and well-wishers too. Abharana Jewellers, St. Antony Cycle Works, City Hospital Udupi & Taj Cycles were kind enough to join hands with us. We are also thankful to the honourable Minister for Fisheries, Youth Empowerment & Sports Shri Pramod Madhwaraj for his support, encouragement and best wishes.
Does this dream end here??
Well well well, when Ms. Divya Tate whispered, "Sarvesha its time to spice up your dreams further, get into Ultra Spice (www.inspire-india.in/the-ultra-spice-race) a 600 km, 1,000 km and 1,750 km race passing through your own territory".
Do I need any more motivation than this . . . time will only tell !!