Two Indians from Maharashtra, Srinivas Gokulnath and Amit Samarth created history on 25 June 2017 by becoming the first from the country to complete the 4900 km long Race Across America (RAAM) in the solo category.
RAAM is considered as one of the most esteemed ultra-endurance cycling events in the world. While 36-year-old Gokulnath finished the distance of 4941kms in 11 days and 18 hours, Samarth took 11 days and 21 hours to finish the race.
• Featuring among the only nine men who finished the tough cycling race, Gokulnath stood 7th followed by Samarth in the 8th position.
• The race had another Indian participant, Samim Rizvi, who withdrew from it after 500 miles.
• The riders were expected to finish the distance in 288 hours. The winner of the race was Christoph Strasser.
• Team Sahyadri Cyclists, from Gokulnath's hometown of Nashik, completed the race in the 4-men category in eight days and 10 hrs.
India at RAAM
• In the race’s three-decade-old history, only three Indians attempted to compete in its solo category but couldn’t complete it prior to this year.
• Samim Rizvi, the first Indian to attempt the race, also took part this year but couldn't finish.
• Gokulnath, who is an aerospace medicine specialist working with the Army in Nashik, competed in the race for the second consecutive year. He had withdrawn from the race’s 2016 edition after covering 2447 km.
• Apart from Rizvi and Gokulnath, Sumit Patil from Alibag was the only one to have attempted the race in the past.
• Samarth, who is an MBBS and has a Master’s Degree in Public Health, finished the race in his maiden attempt.
• More than a dozen Indian riders have qualified for RAAM during the past decade through special rides that take place in various regions like the Deccan plateau, the Thar Desert and the hills of south India.
• After qualifying, one has to undergo gruelling training for several months and do simulated multi-day rides with a specially trained crew and also arrange the finances that run up to over Rs 20 lakh.
• Two brothers and doctors from Nashik- Mahendra and Hitendra Mahajan had won the two-men category last year, marking the first Indian finish at the RAAM.
Speaking after accomplishing the major feat, Gokulnath said, “I am relieved, that is the feeling I am going through right now.” He also added that he went through various emotions right from the start of the race, which he termed as a "relentless effort" from the moment one signs up for it.
Besides this, Gokulnath holds a national record of cycling 4,000km from Leh to Kanyakumari in 16 days in 2014. The feat earned him a place in the Limca Book of Records.
• RAAM is considered as the toughest cycle race in the world.
• It is about 30 percent longer than the Tour de France and the riders have to pedal over 400 km a day to finish the race in 12 days.
• The participants are allowed to rest for only a couple of hours a day. Most of them experience extreme fatigue, sleeplessness and hallucinations.
• The race starts from the Pacific Coast then enters the furnace-like Mojave Desert, then goes through the arid Arizona, cold mountain passes in Colorado, windy plains in Central America, the Appalachian Mountains and finally culminates on the Atlantic coast on the east.
• Racers have to pedal 2447 km across 12 states and climb over 1, 70,000 vertical feet.
• The route also passes through three major mountain ranges, Sierra, Rocky and Appalachian, and crosses four of America’s longest rivers -Colorado, Mississippi, Missouri and Ohio.