And they made! The warriors of the Deccan Cliffhanger 2017 touchdown the Ultra Cycling Race finish line in Goa on 5th November 2017 and the celebration couldn’t have been grander.
With ambiance set up by Kingfisher at the Bogmalo Beach of Goa at John’s Seagull restaurant, the heroes of Deccan Cliffhangers shook off the 2-day cycling heat in the way that they deserved. The inharmonic clinking of glasses, the mirthful chatters, the stories between a giggle and a guffaw … all tied the atmosphere of a great November evening. As the warm glow of the lights and of the racers’ spirits lightened up the party, some revelled in their accomplishment while a few sat back to reflect on this journey called the Deccan Cliffhanger.
It was a chilly Saturday morning. The “Cliffhangers” lined up at the start line with much excitement, and a dose of anticipation. As the race flagged off at exactly 5 am of the November 4th morning, the arduous dash of 645 km began.
The race took off from The Cliff, Forest Trails, Bhugaon and was a 32 hour of cycling, with pit stops, until the Bogmalo beach discerned. The event was flagged off by known names in India’s sports community such as Rutuja Satpute, a National Cycling Champion, Michele Kakade, Guinness book record holder for running 5968 km in 193 days, and Ila Patil, winner of Deccan Cliffhanger 2016.
Ultra racers from around the country were also thrilled to have Srinivas Gokulnath who successfully finished Race Across America Solo. His presence presented the racers with immense motivation.
The 2017 Deccan Cliffhanger saw an impressive participation count with an impressive participation count with 35 racers in the solo category and 36 teams in the group category. The riders started between 5:00 am-8:00 am to head south and climbed up to Panchgani. They, then, took a breathtaking Sahyadri route that descended through Bhilar to reach Satara. Continuing the journey, the “cliffhangers” rode to Dharwad over undulating terrains, before taking the Anshi ghat to finish in Goa.
The route, with frequent climatic shift, proved to be tough on almost 60% of the riders. Only 13 of the total 35 solo racers finished in RAAM Qualification timings, while 5 others finished within Inspire India time and 2 outside that time limit! 14 cyclists could not finish the distance. Well, it was a RAAM Qualifier Race and it was definitely not going to be easy! And amidst all the that, Race Officials also caught 1 racer blatantly cheating who was disqualified immediately.
Among the 36 teams, 32 finished within the time limits of 30 and 31 hours, and 2 finished outside of their time limit and 2 did not finish.
8 teams completed the distance in less than 24 hours, with one Team breaking the previously held ‘fastest to the finish’ record of 21 hrs and 57 mins held by Solo racer Michael Lehnig of Pune. Arham Shaikh, Mihir Deo, Nikhil Anandsekar and Vedant Halarnekar of 3-person Team Relay Spirit covered the 645 Kms in 20 hrs and 35 mins, but got a penalty of 15 mins.
Advait Khatavkar, Sunny Khandale, Vishal Butte, Kunal Singh of 4 person team Wild Jaunters were the next to the finish in 22 hrs and 12 mins, securing second place in the same category of 4 person 18-35 age group. Team K2 Nandkishor Ahire, Dhanaji Jadhav, Mihir Jadhav, were the next fastest, winning first place in the 3-person team 18-34 age category with a race time of 22 hrs and 26 mins. Nilesh Wakchaure, Sanjay Vikhe of Sangamner cyclists in the 35-49 age group won the 2-person team race in 25 hrs and 7 mins.
S Balasubramanian, Anshul Shah, Shikha Gupta, Pallav Poddar of Cyc’d Riders finished first in the Mixed 4-person team 35-49 category with a time of 27 hrs and 10 mins. Aakash Kanojia, Prafful Jatale, Versha Sasne, Joynal Abedin of Bike studio Aurangabad finished in 28 hrs and 8 mins to secure first place in mixed 4-person team 18-35 category. Bhavana Mehra, Kevin Thycherry, Rajat Mainh of team Air Force 1, finished in 28 hrs and 50 mins to secure first place in the 3-person mixed 35-49 category.
All teams with women riders in the Mixed teams reached the finish line, though 2 were out of time limit, including Mahesh and Maithili Jog who was the only female participant in the 2-person team race.
For the first time in India there was a tandem team of 4 pilots and 4 stoker with visual impairments participate in the Deccan Cliffhanger 2017! The team was a mixed tandem team, from Adventures Beyond Barriers (ABBF) a foundation started in Pune by Divyanshu Ganatra to enable people with disabilities to participate in outdoors and sports. The team consisting of Nupur Pittie, Divanshu Ganatra, Bharat Pittie, Manasvi Baheti, (the youngest participant this year) Praveen Raju, Ekinath Khedekar, Kailesh Baheti, Prasad Gurav finished in 31 hrs and 20 mins to a resounding welcome from all participants.
Aside from the ideal team spirit, solo determination was also seen in the tournament.
In the men’s solo race Amit Samarth of Nagpur, who has finished RAAM this year and came to race at the Deccan Cliffhanger again, finished 1st in the SOLO 18-49 age category in 25 hrs and 28 mins. Next at the finish line was Anand Patil of Mumbai, in 28 hrs and 32 mins who won first place in the 50+ age group.
Yagnesh Ahir of Ahmedabad came in a few seconds later to win second place in the 18-49 age group followed by Kabir Rachure from Mumbai in third place. Notably Mohinder Singh Bharaj the oldest participant this year at 62 years finished to secure second place in the 50+ age group with a timing of 33 hrs and 45 mins. The youngest of the Solo participants Shubham Das from Nagpur also finished strong in 30hrs and 22 mins to Qualify for RAAM. Others to qualify for RAAM this year include Vijay Kale of Sangamner, Kishor Kale from Nasik, Aruneet Utkarsh from Pune, Kartik Kansara from Ahmedabad, Koken Uzuntas from Turkey, currently in Pune, Neeraj Vishwakarma from Pune and Vasanth Manivannan from Chennai.
The pulse-rating competition came to a divine finish at the lovely Bogmalo beach, Goa. There were fatigued yet proud faces across the line. Racers were being tend to by the committee members. Cheers were heard, accolades were shared at the dinner party at John’s Seagull. Everyone was a winner in a way- some found a new passion to chase, while some got a much-needed break. Some found a new self within and the rest gleamed tipsily (if you know what we mean). And as the evening waves of the sea washed the serene Bogmalo sands, a cacophony of 450 people raised the toast to the adventurous Deccan Cliffhanger- Until next time!