‘Riding my bicycle for 60-70km; planning to try out rock climbing’
Top athletes talk to HT about their experience of dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic. This is CS Santosh, India’s most accomplished rallyist. He is the first Indian to both compete and complete the Dakar Rally and has taken part in the world’s most celebrated and dangerous rally every year since 2015.Updated: Apr 27, 2020 20:14 IST
I was actually in one of the hotspots in Italy, Bologna, in January. At that point, the coronavirus was already established in China. I was also in Spain but returned to India at the end of January. I had my tickets booked to fly out to Spain on March 17 but had to cancel as Spain went under lockdown.
Usually when I go out I stay (there) for at least three months. But now things have changed considering the situation in Europe. My (Hero MotoSports) teammates are from Portugal. Until last month, the impact wasn’t that big there and they were still able to do some required (bike) testing.
To be honest, I haven’t really been under lockdown because I live at Big Rock Dirtpark (Santosh’s own off-road training facility near Kolar, Karnataka) and have 45 acres of space. I have my moto (two-wheeler) track here, my weights for training, my motorcycle and bicycle—so pretty much everything that I need I have it here in the park. I’m still able to continue training and do the things I need to. The only time I have to exercise caution is when I go to town for supplies.
I also don’t stay in the country at this time of the year. Usually I’m in Europe for training but since I can’t do that, this is the next best thing for me. So it’s not been that bad. I’m still training here in India, just not to the extent of what I could have probably experienced in Europe. That apart, it’s not really affected me because I am still able to do the things that define me. For me that is a comforting factor.
This year we were supposed to test heavily because we have a new motorcycle, but that is being affected. For the whole cycle of testing you need to put in a certain number of kilometres which takes a certain amount of time—all that is on the back end now.
We are losing time to be ready for the Dakar Rally in January. Some of the (preparatory) races have been cancelled already. We are all in the same boat.
These days, the first thing I do when I wake up in the morning is jump on my bicycle. I have open highways and village roads to ride through and I do that for about 60-70km. Sometimes I do sprints, sprint training, running training on the property itself. Then I do cross training with weights. In the afternoon I ride the bike and then in the evening I’m again on my bicycle—so it’s pretty much a packed day.
I am now able to catch up on some YouTube videos that I wanted to watch or read a book that I wanted to read. Also, I live very close to some boulders so I am going to do some climbing. As a kid I spent a lot of my time on these rocks. I just didn’t approach them thinking that I’m actually going to do rock climbing. But now since I have a little bit of knowledge that there is a sport called rock climbing, I’d love to go and see what it’s like.
(As told to Sandip Sikdar)