- Cyclist from Goa gears up to Race Across America
Cyclist from Goa gears up to Race Across America
19 Apr 2018 06:23am IST
19 Apr 2018 06:23am IST
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
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
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.
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.