Published On : Mon, Nov 16th, 2015

How Nagpur guys conquered the dangerous ‘Deccan cliffhanger’ and emerged winners

deccan roads
Dr. Amit Samarth, 35 years, wowed all the other participants by coming 5th in the solo race category of Deccan Cliff Hanger cycle rally held recently. (On 7th November 2015). Four other Nagpurians too braved this near impossible feat and three of them managed to finish it, as a team. Sachin Palewar, Rajesh Chansoriya and Yash Sharma did the ‘relay race’ and Aniruddha attempted the solo too. So five Nagpurians went on the race to ‘conquer the Sahyadris’.

So What is the Deccan Cliff Hanger?

The Deccan Cliffhanger is a 643 Km (400 Mile) Ultra Cycling Race from Pune to Goa, comprising solo and relay team categories. All racers in all categories must have a support vehicle and crew.

The Deccan Cliffhanger is a RAAM Qualifier. A race all serious and passionate cyclers can only dream of participating in. The Solo Racers of Cliff Hangers who finish within the time limit will be qualified for Race Across America (RAAM) The Worlds Toughest Bicycle Race! Now Nagpur lad Amit will be one of them.

How difficult is this race?

Very! Since it means cycling non stop ( except for very essential breaks) from Pune to Goa. This is a very scenic road no doubt, as it snakes all through the Sahyadri mountain ranges passing through Mahabaleshwar, Panchgani, Satara, Kolhapur, Belgaum to finally Goa. But the very description tells you that it is mostly mountainous – either you are climbing or you are descending. You have to cycle through at least four huge ghats – The Amboli ghat, The ghats between Panchgani and Mahabaleshwar, the Medha ghat, the Nipani ghat and the 42 Kms of Chorla ghat. Total distance of ghats is 150 kms.Many of these ghats have very acute turns and have to be navigated very carefully. If you were to be driving a car you would have to come down to 2nd and first gear – so imagine the strain on a cyclist?

Night Cycling – The total time Amit took to finish the race was 28 hours, 47 minutes and 18 seconds. So whatever time you begin cycling from Pune, the journey will have to include 10 to 12 hours of night time driving – driving through darkness, on mountain roads. Through thick forests! If the mountain terrain is dangerous during day time, when you can see clearly, imagine how tough it will be at night, with no visibility? To add to that you are tired, fatigued and sleep deprived. You nod off at the wrong place or lose your concentration and a sheer drop will be your fate.

“The only light you get is the car light of your ‘crew car’ that per rules has to be behind you” Says Amit. “Driving conditions for the car drivers is also tough. She/ he has to drive slowly with full concentration also in the similar condition of sleep deprivation. There have been cases when a cyclist’s crew car only has struck him down!”

Not just dark, it is cold too! Recalls 17 years old Yash, who was part of the team, at night, in the mountains and forests it suddenly got very chilly and cold. ” If you hadn’t eaten enough carbohydrates and were not covered enough you couldn’t withstand the drop in temperatures.” Of very slight build, Yash is a pure vegetarian, who began eating eggs on this journey itself…

amit and his crew
“You have to keep sipping water, drinking energy drinks and nibbling on food every 2-3 hours or you will be putting tremendous strain on your kidneys and liver. Remember the liver can keep you energized for only 3 hours without replenishment!” Informs Dr. Amit Samarth. Not to mention the burden on your lungs and heart too. Basically, you are challenging all your internal organs to cope with the strain and the struggle that such rigorous cycling is.

Rajesh Chansoriya, 49, who was the oldest member of the team says drinking sweet energy drinks also gets nauseating after a certain point. “How many energy bars and sweet drinks can you consume? One comes down to drinking plain water, in huge quantities after a while”.

Actually, Another Nagpurian who attempted the solo race is Aniruddha Raich owner of cycle store Ncyclopedia the Deccan cliffhanger from Nagpur was Aniruddha Raich, who is all of 41. Owner of sports cycle shop Ncylcopedea, he is the main inspiration behind all the suddenly-cycling Nagpurians. He had also ventured on the race, but gave up after almost 20 hours because he just could not keep awake any more! But is nevertheless an accomplished cyclist who has a few ‘ironmen’ under his belt. (Ironman is an endurance test of cycling… you have to have done multiple races of fixed distances in fixed time over an year to get one ironman)

Cycling – an adventure sport where Man and Machine have to be one!

As Aniruddha explains, choosing the right cycle is very essential if one wants to be an adventure cyclist. If the cycle you are riding is even a few inches too high or too low, it will add unnecessary strain to your leg muscles.

He claims that ever since he began his store selling sports cycles of 12 international brands, he has converted over 500 Nagpurians to cycling!

So this city, which was known as a place where Foodies and laid back people live, is suddenly turning into a city where Brevet is holding 3 0r 4 annual events and hundreds of people, of all ages and both sexes are out on the road every morning – and evening too – pedaling hard and still enjoying it.

All the Nagpurians who braved the Deccan Cliffhanger and came back safe for Diwali recall how much tougher it was for people of this area.

“We are used to cycling on plain roads with little tiny hills (at the most), at sunny and warm temperatures and roads with good surfaces. It is known terrain after all where we go almost every weekend. This was completely new, strange and very challenging.

It is no exaggeration that I had my insurance covered and let my family know all about my savings and other financial details before I went on this rally, says Rajesh.

It was no less than going on a war – against nature, against the climate, against sleep, hunger and bodily endurance. And coming out winners!

Like one cyclist explains – “going on the RAAM is like climbing Mount Everest thrice – back to back!”

—- Sunita Mudaliar