Race Across India, a first-of-its-kind race in Asia, began today as 29 cyclists set out to cover a distance of 3655 kilometres from Kashmir to Kanyakumari, covering 12 states. It has been accorded the status of Asian Ultracycling Championship by the World Ultracycling Association (WUCA).
The cyclists who complete the race will qualify for the world event, the director of the ultracycling project, Jitendra Nayak, told PTI.
The idea for the race emerged after Indian cyclists participated in similar events held in other countries. "It is a very expensive affair to participate in the races held in the west. So the idea was to allow the cyclists from India to participate in ultracycling events that are affordable. It will cost only 1/10th what it takes to participate in races abroad," Nayak said.
This year's participants include 12 solo cyclists, including one female racer, and four teams of four players. Race director Vivitt Walve told PTI that there are 12 time stations along the route, and each is placed between 200 and 400 kilometres.
Geeta Rao, India’s first differently-abled Super Randonneur, Olympic triathlete, and silver medalist at the Para Cycling Championship 2022, is the only female participant in this race. Rao was diagnosed with polio at a young age which affected her left leg.
"I am very excited and want to spread a positive message to all women. If I can dream of it and achieve it, everyone can do it. My one leg is inactive, I would be cycling with only one leg," Rao told PTI. "I always do what I dream of and I just take one step to achieve it. For the rest of the things, like failures, everything is part of the journey. That's how I take every adventure in my life and that's how I achieve what I dream."
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In a recent interview, the Sushena Health Foundation revealed in Rao's presence that through her participation in the race, the ultracyclist will be supporting the campaign to increase breastfeeding awareness in India.
The race begins in Srinagar and is expected to last for about 12 to 14 days.
(With inputs from PTI)