There was a time in his life when Sumit Patil saw someone on the velo and it got him amazed. Since then, he always wanted to get his hands on one. Just like you, I too as a kid was taught to ride a bicycle with someone holding the carrier or seat from the back. Eventually, I got better and discovered the freedom it can give me. Then, one fine day Sumit Patil realised the person holding me was moving far away, with the rubber tyres slurring on the tarmac. The joy and that feeling of breaking free is unmatchable. There is a sense of liberation with no restrictions. It is indeed, pure freedom.
I’m sure most of us have been through this, and well, so has SUMIT PATIL; the third Indian who managed to qualify for Race Across America RAAM—the toughest race in the history of cycling. A transcontinental race where the clock keeps ticking. Man against man, man against nature, and ultimately man against himself, where you are expected to cover 3000 miles in 12 days.
Not everyone can do it. As kids, our parents were highly protective and so were Sumit’s, but for him, cycling went on without a full stop. He crossed new parameters and covered new territories every day. It made him happy. In school, he did a few tours and that’s when he realised that a bicycle is just enough to move your world.
Brought up in a small town called Alibaug, Sumit Patil always dreamt about getting in the Olive green uniform. Though he still hasn’t given up on his dream and believes someday it will happen.
He later migrated to Mumbai for his post-graduation. Since then, he has been in love with the city. The mellowed city in the night and the beautiful sunrise is what makes him happy. A champion in swimming, table tennis and rifle shooting. Trekking exposed him to mountain biking and that’s when cycling got into him. Over time, he matured to realise that cycling is a perfect getaway for most issues in life. Soon he got into randoneering. A coffee lover, Sumit along with a group has even cycled to a military base called Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh which has never seen bicycles before. Sumit glowed with pride when the commander congratulated him. He has also participated in the ‘desert 500’ which is a 24-hour challenge where the route was Jodhpur – Jaisalmer – Jodhpur and finished in third place.
Sumit Patil states that cycling never got complicated- it not only taught him camaraderie and made him a better person but also helped him fight a genetic disorder called ankylosing spondylitis where the joints of the axial skeleton fuse together. He tells me never to get negative thoughts into my head, “Think of happy moments, they will lead you to your goal.”
Three years ago, when Sumit Patil read about Shamim Rizvi (first Indian to qualify for RAAM), he couldn’t stop thinking about it. Later when the director of RAAM visited India, things just fell into place. Moulded under the meticulous training of Satish sir; his guide and guru, Sumit Patil has now taken to training himself.
Sumit Patil trained his heart till it could resist every pain and control his emotions. From interval training to speed training, where one literally pukes blood, Sumit has done it all. “It’s all about fooling your mind”, says the cyclist, “training hard is where you meet the real you”. He also confesses that listening to his favourite artist like MLTR, Boyzone and Bryan Adams keeps him pumped while on the velo.
The inspiring stories never stop as he keeps narrating them with child-like enthusiasm. Sumit believes that cycling is very personal to every person. For the RAAM qualification round, Banglore-Mysore-Ooty and back were the designated route. It meant 601 km in 32.5 hours to be precise which he managed to do it within the time limit. Sumit managed to finish the task in the given time frame in spite of being penalised for jumping a signal. His qualification will last for 3 years and he is confident about performing well.
Sumit will need a sum of 30 lakhs as donations as charity to participate and is on the lookout for sponsors. However, one thing he is sure of is his tag line; “MADE IN INDIA”. Though he trains alone most of the time, catching him on his MADONE is a task. There are just a few who can. And even if you do manage to catch up, will you be able to sustain?
Well, this is just a sneak peak into Sumit Patil’s inspiring story. Stay tuned for his complete interview coming up shortly…
- Sumit Patil
- Hitisha Mehta
- Tracy Alvares