My Deccan Cliffhanger Sojourn.... A dream that became a reality
Every endurance cyclist has a dream of racing in The Deccan Cliffhanger (DC) and achieve the Race Across America (RAAM) Qualifier title. And all this has to be done by covering 643 kilometres all in 32 hours (this includes food break, sleep break, attending nature's call etc) and and elevation gain of 5500 metres across the Sahyadri mountain range of the mighty western ghats.
So keeping this target in mind I started training under Asia’s one of the finest ultra-cyclist Dr. Amit samarth who himself is a solo RAAM finisher and winner of the DC 2017. during the initial days of my training I found it a bit difficult managing my professional and training commitments. But with the will power and sheer determination of racing in DC and achieving RQ title I gave it all. Coach sir laid down the plan and I blindly followed it to the core. So much was the sacrifice that I haven't met my toddler son for the past 5 months now.
With proper training as my strength I somehow managed to form a LAGAAN crew as none of my crew member had any idea of the race route or terrain. All of my 4 crew members were completely new to crewing in any ultra-cycling event.
After travelling from Raipur non-stop for 1100 kms and 27 hours we reached Pune on 24th November 2022. Then on 25th November 2022 we went to the race start venue Keshavbaug, Pune for pre-race car and bike inspection and race briefing by Race Director. Now some amount of nervousness had already crept into me but somehow I maintain my calm and slept early by 9:30 PM loading myself with good amount of calories by eating aloo paratha and vada pav.
And then came the race day. Sharp at 3:30 AM of 26 November 2022 me and my crew woke up and freshened up sorted out all my nutrients, hydration materials, bike related things in my car and reached the race venue at 5:15 AM. I felt like living my dream as I was going to race alongside the legends of Indian ultra-cycling community like Kabir Rachure, Anand Patil and other well established ultra-cyclists of India. As a rookie it was like a altogether different experience for me.
CP 1 – CP 2 Kehavbaug Pune to Mahabaleshwar
In time trial fashion racers were flagged off one after another and I was flagged off exactly at 6:23 AM. It was a bit cold at Pune so riding was all pleasant. Within first 5 kilometres of the race we came across the first climb though a small one. After passing through the Katraj tunnel it was all flat till the beginning of the Khambatki ghat. After the climb it was all flat for some 40 kilometres and I gained a good amount of speed till we reached the beginning of the biggest claim of the race- The Pasarni Ghat. The Pasarni ghat is a 11 kilometre climb with an elevation gain of 1400 metres. The claim was difficult but I was able to reach well within time to CP 2 at 10:54 AM.We covered 110 kilometres with 3 major ghats well within our calculated time.
CP 2- CP 3 Mahabaleshwar to Yellur
So after crossing CP 2 there was a small climb and then started the descent of Medha ghat. Medha ghat is a 15 kilometre ghat with steep descents, blind turn and fine screes on turns which made the right extremely dangerous because a slightest mistake would have led me to hang in the Cliff of Western ghat (and hence the name The Deccan Cliffhanger). After carefully navigating through the Medha ghat we started proceeding towards Satara.
And now the ride condition were getting tougher because of the overhead blazing sun. The temperature was soaring and there was a lot of dehydration. I suffered severe muscle cramps along the stretch of Satara to Kolhapur but thanks to my dedicated crew they kept on feeding and hydrating me every 20 to 30 minutes and I kept on riding despite of the cramps and pain all this lead to a decrease in my overall speed and we reached CP 3 at 5:00 PM.
We covered 147.6 kilometres in 6 hours under extremely challenging conditions. We were already late by 2 hours from our calculated time projection (purely theoretical as we all were new to the route!!!!).
CP 3 to CP 4 Yellur to Sankeshwar
With the night rules setting in we had to be very careful and vigilant. As any brea