It’s been quite some time ultra-cyclists from India have been eyeing the world’s toughest bicycle race- RAAM. After several attempts by many Indian’s, we finally had Amit Samarth from Nagpur who finished the Race Across America in his first attempt.
Below, we present to you his side of the story on becoming the first Indian RAAM rookie
How does it feel completing RAAM in the first attempt?
I have a great sense of achievement and accomplishment. Being the first Rookie from India to finish RAAM Solo has given me inspiration to reach out to even bigger and larger goals in life. We had a very rookie crew too. Only one person out of 16 people had crewing experience. 5 of the crew members were visiting USA for the first time. So a Rookie rider with a rookie crew was a lagaan movie like situation but we pulled it off because we had lot of bonding in the crew. It also feels great because I am the only guy in India who has done Ironmans and RAAM too.
Tell us something about your training for RAAM?
I started training more rigorously from December after my Ironman race in Australia. Every weekend we had super long rides covering more than 800 to 900 kms. We also did 5 day continuous ride in India and covered 2700 kms, which gave me confidence to finish RAAM successfully. I also trained in Boulder, USA to improve my hill climbing and riding on altitude.
How did you deal with the heat, cold and rain during the rain?
To deal with heat I used ice packs and ice jackets. In some sections I used sports bra with ice packs to keep my core temperature low. The race was not that cold at all. It was easy to manage cold with leg and vest warmers. In rain I used shoe covers, rain wear and helmet covers to protect myself.
How different is the Indian weather compared to RAAM?
It is extremely different. Especially Arizona is very arid, air is very dry. My lips were all chapped and breaking. The skin inside the nose became dry and I started bleeding from the nose. Due to temperature changes and drinking ice cold water I got a sore throat and temperature on third day. I was put on antibiotics and my fever went off on fourth day.
What all were a part of your RAAM crew team and what was their role?
We had a 16 member strong crew. Everyone had a role, driving, cooking, grocery buying, bike maintenance, Caravan driving, navigation. We had rented 2 SUVs and 1 caravan. Our philosophy of the crew was to be like a Indian marriage party, have fun and follow all the rules. We were all committed to maintain the integrity of the race.
What were you thinking while pedaling 3000 miles?
I was thinking all kind of things. It was do or die race of my life. We had invested so much of time, emotions and money for this. I have to get this thing done and go back to Nagpur as a winner and earn my bragging rights for lifetime.
How did you manage your finances? Did you get any help from sponsors?
We raised finances from Nagpur. Lot of people from Nagpur, Hyderabad, Hubli contributed for RAAM. We approached many big companies to sponsor the team but none of them believed that some rider from Nagpur can do RAAM successfully.
What are the sacrifices your family had to do for your RAAM dream?
My parents, wife and my son have sacrificed a lot for last one year. They used to get early morning to prepare food for me. They have spent hundreds of hours crewing for me in India. It was a family dream and they all believed in it to make it a reality.
Who was your inspiration when it came to RAAM?
Jure Robik was my inspiration
What made you Race across America in the first place?
Our main objective was to create a major sports success story in Nagpur. ProHEALTH Foundation’s vision is to promote endurance sports in Nagpur and Central India. We want to lead this initiative, so it was important from a larger societal benefit point of view to finish RAAM successfully because it is such a iconic and monumental race. I am also very happy that thousands of people from India followed the race and it was a great advertisement for cycling and endurance sports.
How have the people and the cyclists in Nagpur reacted to your victory at RAAM?
I had a great Hero’s welcome in Nagpur. People of Nagpur and cyclist had organized a rally for me. We had great music and drums. It was like a dream come true for me. Everybody owned the RAAM victory as their own. They are so happy that someone from Nagpur has done RAAM successfully.
Do you think RAAM is the toughest bicycle race?
Ya, it is. It is monster and very cruel race. The race is designed to kill you. It will give you every reason to quit the race and go home. It is about how badly you want it to be done. RAAM Solo is no fun. Only fun is after you reach finish line.
Any advice you would like to give cyclist from India looking to participate in the next RAAM?
Train hard and very hard and still RAAM will surprise you. It needs a special mind to finish RAAM Solo.
I will be surely doing more races in future. But my larger objective is written below,
Establish a School of Endurance Sports in Nagpur and create a centre for excellence in endurance sports training with focus areas in
- Distance running
- Track and Field
- Identify and nurture talent and take them to international level
- Organize quality sports events in Central India
- Promote cycling, running and triathlon in schools and colleges through various programs
- Promote physical activity and sports among various age groups
Did you have any strategy for RAAM?
Yes. Just ride and get a riding time of 20 to 21 hours every day. Crew should have fun, distribute work load and get good Indian food.
What’s more important? Being mentally fit or physically?
I think it’s both. You need lot of experience of races and sports to finish RAAM successfully. You need a very strong motive. Something beyond yourself.