Riding in Race Across America requires years of planning: cyclist Srinivas Gokulnath

Race Across America (RAAM) is one of the toughest cycling races in the world and Srinivas Gokulnath, India’s first finisher of the famed race, is now promoting ultra cycling in the country and is in Chandigarh to help participants prepare for Shivalik Signature, a 615km two-day qualifier race for RAAM 2018 to be held on April 7-8.

other sports Updated: Feb 17, 2018 22:50 IST
Ashutosh Sharma
Ashutosh Sharma
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
Race Across America,RAAM,RAAM 2018
Srinivas Gokulnath during the press conference announcing Shivalik Signature, a 615km two-day qualifier race for Race Across America (RAAM) 2018 to be held in Chandigarh on April 7-8.(Sushil Prajapati/HT Photo)

Last year, Srinivas Gokulnath became the first Indian to finish one of the toughest cycling race in the world -- the Race Across America (RAAM) -- which involves covering close to 5,000km in under 12 days. He took 11 days, 18 hours and 45 minutes to cover 5070 km from San Diego on the US west coast to Annapolis on the east coast to become a RAAM finisher.

Nagpur-based Amit Samarth also competed alongside Gokulnath and took 11 days and 21 hours to finish the 2017 race.

With the RAAM challenge completed, Gokulnath is now trying to popularise the sport and was in Chandigarh to help cyclist train to compete in the ‘Shivalik Signature’, a 615km two-day qualifier race for RAAM 2018 to be held on April 7-8.

This will be the first time the qualifying event for RAAM will be staged in North India and will give cyclists from this part of a country a peek into the challenges of RAAM.

Gokulnath, who is a an aerospace medicine specialist, said RAAM is something that takes years of planning and completing it boils down to the mental aspect.

“You start at sea level, and then, after wading through dessert you reach Rocky Mountains. The terrain and varied temperatures and endless pressure to cycle means, a rider has to complete 450km per day on an average to complete the race in under 12 days. A rider, like me, can end up cycling for 20-22 hours get 2-3 hours of rest and start again. Hydration, nutrition and fitness all play roles which includes weather and other elements also,” Gokulnath said.

“It’s not easy. I started dreaming of doing it in 2009 and till 2012, I was just planning. Then I did Leh to Kanyakumari in 2014. In the 2016 RAAM, I dropped off with 750 km to go on the last day. It’s tough to be a rider,” he added.

The qualifying event will start from Chandigarh on April 7 and will go through the plains of Punjab covering all major cities and the Kandli region, located in the lower Shivalik Hills before returning to Chandigarh in 30 hours.

“Any ultra cycling race is a tough one since you have to be on the saddle for more than 200km at a stretch. You need the right kind of mindset and regular training,” said Gokulnath.

The qualifying event, similar to RAAM, will be open to solo racers, tandems, a two-person team, four person team and eight person team. “While the solo category is aimed at serious cyclists, the team categories are open to cyclists of all abilities,” said Saran Preeti, who is the organiser for this qualifying race.

First Published: Feb 17, 2018 22:38 IST