Herald: Cyclist from Goa gears up to Race Across America
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Cyclist from Goa gears up to Race Across America

19 Apr 2018 06:23am IST

Report by
Rahul Chandawarkar

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19 Apr 2018 06:23am IST

Report by
Rahul Chandawarkar

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Sundaram Narayanan, one of the finest endurance cyclists in Goa today, will be the first cyclist from the state to attempt the Race Across America (RAAM), the world’s toughest, long-distance cycle race. Café shares his story

Endurance cyclist Sundaram Narayanan (38) is set to be the

first cyclist from Goa to attempt the Race Across America (RAAM), the world’s toughest, long-distance cycle race.Sundaram or Sundar as he is popularly known in cycling circles, works at the Dona Paula-based ManipalHospital as a medical physicist and radiation safety officer.

Hailing from the small village of Selum in Tamil Nadu, Sundar was born in a farmer’s family and had to work very hard to graduate as a medical physicist. One of three brothers, Sundar’s tryst with cycling began very early in life.

He began delivering newspapers on a cycle as a school boy, to primarily earn money to fund his education and continued doing so, right up to his graduation. “The money earned contributed towards my studies and I remember cycling to the University too,” says Sundar.

However, it was only when he sought work in Goa that the endurance cycling bug bite him. “I was inspired by a colleague who came to work on a cycle and I began cycling once again in 2013,” he states.

Sundar soon started taking part in the BRMs (Brevet des RandonneursMondiaux) or long distance endurance cycling rides and became a super randonneur (cyclist who completes a 200, 300, 400 and 600 km cycle ride in one calendar year) in his very first season. However, given his natural affinity for cycling, Sundar aimed higher and started completing 1,200 km rides in rapid succession.

In fact, his timing of 73 hours, 45 minutes in one of the recent 1200 km rides organised in Chennai was, according to Sundar, the fastest by an Indian for that distance.

He also stood a creditable fifth, twice, in the gruelling 635 kms, Pune-Mahabaleshwar-Goa, ‘Deccan Cliffhanger’ (RAAM qualifier) race in the years 2014 and 2016.

Having decided to compete in the RAAM race, Sundar went to the USA last year as part of Lt Col Srinivas Gokulnath’s (first Indian to complete the RAAM solo) support crew. According to Sundar, the experience he gained from this tour was invaluable. “It was a great pleasure to support Team Srini. I got a very good understanding of the race, the preparations, the logistics, bike inspections, role of the support crew and how to ride in different climatic conditions,” says Sundar.

This tour also made it possible for Sundar to meet AlbertoBlanco, recipient of the ‘RAAM rookie of the year’ title and popular ultra-cycling coach. Today, Blanco’s long distance coaching for Sundar includes 15-18 hours of cycling every week, which boils down to two hours of cycling every alternate day, gym training, yoga, specific nutrition and very long weekend rides with two days of rest thrown in. “I want to be the fastest Indian to complete the RAAM,” Sundarreveals.

The success or failure in RAAM hinges to a large extent on the quality and experience of your support crew, which is usually following the rider in a car, with food, cycle spares and constant motivation. Sundar’s eleven-member crew will be led by Dr Pankaj Mhatre, a nuclear medicine specialist from ManipalHospital and includes among others, Ajay Dongre, ace cycle technician and physics professor from Ponda, Sundar’s wife Harshal, a professional nutritionist, and Vinod Pai, cycling enthusiast from Panjim.

According to Sundar, his RAAM attempt is costing him INR 40 lakhs and finding sponsors has been difficult. “RAAM is not yet popular in India and hence it is very difficult to get sponsorship. Luckily for me, I am supported by a few corporates from Goa who are interested in cycling, including my parent association Cycling Goa,” he states.

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