5th edition of Deccan Cliffhanger: Nagpur cyclist finishes 645-km ultra race within 26 hours

The grueling distance, elevation and terrain along with extreme changes in weather took a toll on riders and only who overcame the obstacles managed to finish the race in stipulated time

pune Updated: Nov 15, 2017 14:43 IST
Ashish Phadnis
Ashish Phadnis
Hindustan Times, Pune
Pune,5th edition of Deccan Cliffhanger,Nagpur cyclist
Amit Samarth finished first in the solo category of the 5th edition of Deccan Cliffhanger.(HT PHOTO)

The Deccan Cliffhanger (DC), a 645-km ultra cycle race to qualify for the Race Across America (RAAM) is not meant for the easy goers. The grueling distance, elevation and terrain along with extreme changes in weather takes a toll on riders and only who overcome the obstacles managed to finish the race in stipulated time (32 hours).

The 5th edition of DC was no exception as the goal turned out to be too difficult for many racers. This year 35 cyclists had registered in solo categories while 126 registered to race in 36 teams.13 riders managed to finish the race within RAAM qualification timing while five others finished within Inspire India time and two other members also who finished but, outside the time limit.

The main attraction of the 5th edition of DC was the return of RAAM finisher Amit Samarth. The Nagpur cyclist who had qualified for RAAM by finishing DC in 2015, was back in the saddle for the same event again.

“After RAAM, there were was a long pause – empty days without any target. So when I was invited to DC for flag-off, I decided to be a part of the race. It was the most amazing feeling, I was back again at the start line of a race. Just felt great to be there and among the ultra-cycling community,” he said.

Other riders were no match for Samarth’s experience from RAAM and he finished first in the solo category with a timing of 25 hrs 28 mins. “My crew team did a great job as we had very few stoppages and no time penalties. I am thankful to crew to have patience and keep working continuously for more than 25 hrs in the race and get me to the finish line,” he said.

A total of 14 riders failed to reach the finish line. However this is the highest number of riders qualifying for the RAAM, as last year 12 riders were qualified and nine in 2015.The teams did well as 32 teams finished within the time limit, two teams finished outside of their time limit while two could not finish.

Change in route

This year the organisers decided to make the race little tougher and included Bhilar village section in the route after Mahabaleshwar. The riders who started from Bhugaon faced the real test of their endurance on this patch as they had already climbed Katraj, Khambatki, the lengthy Pasarani ghat.

Rider Omkar Brahme (green helmet, blue jersey) of Pro Sports and Bikes team during the Deccan Cliffhanger, a 645­km ultra cycle race to qualify for the Race Across America. (ASHISH PHADNIS)

“The climb near Bhilar was a killer, I had never experienced such gradient but it was quite exciting,” said Omkar Brahme, a rider from Pro Sports and Bikes team which finished second in their category.

After climbing down Medha ghat, the riders faced comparatively easy terrain till Nippani. However, the Tavandi and Vantamuri ghats followed by rolling terrain till Dharwad was another challenge. Even tackling the city roads in Dharwad to reach the checkpoint was a task for riders as well for the crew teams.

Then the picturesque route from Anshi-Dandeli forest became more interesting as the leading team sighted tiger and they immediately alerted the organisers.

Penalties and disqualification

The fifth edition saw disqualification of rider Akshay Chougule for cheating.

“We had doubts about this rider even last year’s edition but we couldn’t get the proof. This time we caught him cheating and he was disqualified immediately,” said race director Divya Tate of Inspire India.

As per the DC rules, no rider is allowed to take a draft from any vehicle, but Akshay was spotted taking draft (rider tucking in close behind another rider or vehicle, which may expend less energy, and on an average get 27 per cent reduction in wind resistance) of several two-wheelers on an en route at Kolhapur and faced a penalty.

Along with this, the organisers imposed several time penalties for not following the rules. “We were particular about the safety issue and had clearly mentioned all rules to riders and crew teams, so we had no other option but to impose a time penalty for minor offenses,” said Divya.

The inspiration for ABBF

For the first time in India there was a tandem team of four pilots and four stokers with visual impairments participate in the Deccan Cliffhanger edition.

The team was a mixed tandem team, from Adventures Beyond Barriers (ABBF) a foundation started in Pune by Divyanshu Ganatra to enable people with disabilities to participate in outdoors and sports.

The team consisting of Nupur Pittie, Divanshu Ganatra, Bharat Pittie, Manasvi Baheti, (the youngest participant this year) Praveen Raju, Ekinath Khedekar, Kailesh Baheti, Prasad Gurav finished in 31 hrs and 20 mins.

The Qualified members for RAAM

Men’s category

(18-49yrs) QT: 32 hours

Amit Samarth (25:28:12s)

Yagnesh Ahir (28:32:51s)

Kabir Rachure (28:50:31s)

Vijay sampat Kale (29:46:27s)

Shubham Vijay Das (30:22:13s)

Kishor Kale (30:43:25s)

Aruneet Utkarsh (30:59:10s)

Kartik Kansara (30:13:49s)

Koken Uzuntas (31:30:41s)

Neeraj Vishwakarma (31:49:54s)

Vasanth Manivannan (31:51:15s)

Over 50 years (QT: 34 hours)

Anand Patil (28:32:21s)

Mohinder Singh bharaj (33:45:20s)

First Published: Nov 15, 2017 14:40 IST