Maharashtra doctors become first Indians to finish Race Across America as solo riders
Nashik’s army doctor Srinivas Gokulnath and Nagpur’s doctor Amit Samarth made history on Sunday, as they became first solo finishers from the country in the Race Across America (RAAM), one of the most esteemed ultra-endurance cycling events in the world.
In the solo 18-59 age category, the 36-year-old Gokulnath finished the distance of 3070 miles (4941kms) in 11 days and 18 hours. Samarth was slightly behind him and took 11 days and 21 hours to finish the race. The riders were expected to finish the distance in 288 hours. Gokulnath finished overall 7th while Samarth was placed 8th. Another Indian rider Samim Rizvi withdrew from the race after 500 miles.
Lt Col Srinivas is an aerospace medicine specialist from Nashik and had participated in the 2016 edition of RAAM. However he failed to maintain the speed and was forced to walk out after 10 days 21 hours (2447 kms).
This year he was better prepared and after initial slow start, he picked up the speed and kept going strong throughout the route. For the first few days, he was trailing Amit Samarth by about 150 kms, but in the last stages of the race, he went all out and finished well ahead of his country mate.
Srinivas has undertaken several cycling expeditions in the recent past. He finished third in the Deccan cliffhanger cycling event held in Pune in November 2014 to qualify for RAAM. A national record of cycling 4,000km from Leh to Kanyakumari in 16 days in 2014 was the peak for him and it earned him a place in the Limca Book of Records.
Dr Amit Samarth also 36-year-old, is a MBBS and has a Master’s Degree in Public Health. His endurance background includes 10 Ironman Triathlons. His achievements comprise of more than 100 half marathons, eight full marathons and many other races. He had qualified for RAAM in 2015. He also was a crew member during RAAM 2016 for Seana Hogan- who is an ultra-cycling legend and six times solo winner at RAAM.
Samarth was supported by Scott Sports India and they provided him three world class premium carbon bikes.
“RAAM is an ultimate test of human endurance. My objective is to promote sports and active lifestyle and inspire people of my country to give more priority to sports. In future, I want to establish the School of Endurance Sports in Nagpur to develop national and international level athletes in endurance sports like cycling, running and triathlon,” Samarth had quoted before heading for America.
RAAM is about 30 per cent longer than the Tour de France. Moreover, racers must complete the distance in roughly half the time, with no rest days. Racers must cycle 3070 miles, across 12 states, and climb over 1,70,000 vertical feet. The route travels west to east, traversing three major mountain ranges (Sierra, Rocky and Appalachian), crosses four of America’s longest rivers (Colorado, Mississippi, Missouri and Ohio) and the Great Plains. Also, passing through such iconic American landmarks as the Mojave and Sonoran Deserts, Monument Valley, Great Plains and Gettysburg.
For India, only the Mahajan brothers, Mahendra and Hitendra have managed to be successful in the relay category in 2015. Whereas the solo category is considered, India has been represented by Samim Rizvi (3) and Sumit Patil (1) in the past.
We were waiting for this moment for years – Divya Tate
“We have been waiting for this moment for years. This year has been significant for Indian cyclists, as two of them finished as solo while the Team Sahyadri will mostly finish in a day,” said Pune-based Divya Tate of Inspire India, also an ultra-cyclist and race organiser of Deccan Cliffhanger, the qualification race for RAAM.
“This feat is special for us as all of the riders have qualified for RAAM through Deccan Cliffhanger. The race not only helped them to improve their cycling but gave them a platform. We wish this number would increase in future,” she said.
Talking about Gokulnath, she said, “I was a crew member of another rider when Gokulnath was forced to leave the race. I met him at the finish line, he was really heart-broken and said it’s all over. However, I encouraged him saying that he has a better chance to finish the race next year. He had covered two third of the distance and was well versed with the nature of the race. Of course, he worked hard for almost a year and here is the result.”