RACE REPORT of the Great Himalayan Ultra!
“The race is not so much against other racers, but in fact against all the forces of nature that have created these mountains.” – Divya Tate
The first edition of the world’s highest ultra cycle race was flagged off from Leh Gate at 6:00 am by Divya Tate, first woman from India to be qualified for Paris-Brest-Paris and national representative of Audax India Randonneurs. 3 of India’s top elite ultraracers, Sumit Patil, Kabir Rachure and Amit Samarth, each with their support crews in motor vehicles, set off to face 600 challenging kms in the Himalayas! The first 150 km were fairly fast paced with all 3 of them not far from each other at the lamayuru control at 11520 ft. with Amit arriving there just 6 hours after start, followed by Kabir 30 mins behind him and sumit another 40 mins later.
From here the racers continued up Fotu La at 13479ft., climbing almost 2000 ft in 15 km, keeping the same sequence. From Fotu La the route descends to Kargil where Amit passed through at 5:08pm having covered 257km in @11hours. Followed by Kabir 6:36pm and Sumit at 7:52 pm all the racers now faced a bigger challenge than anticipated… a strong headwind as they headed to Dras, the world’s second coldest inhabited place. Reaching there, only 60 km from kargil Amit took 3.5 hours and Kabir took 4 hours, indicating averages of 17 kmph and 15kmph respectively. Sumit who may have rested enroute, took @5 hours and one can see the gaps between racers increase.
Returning to Kargil for a 3 hour mandatory rest break, Amit was looking very tired, but started promptly 3 hours later in the cold night air at 2:00am to climb back up over Namik La and Fotu La. Kabir started 2 hrs 22mins later, and Sumit at 8:45 am. Amit had to face the extreme cold especially on the descent from Namik La, which slowed him down as he had to stop and warm himself. Within a few hours though he faced the other extreme of climate as it got hot while he climbed Fotu La. By this time it was obvious that he was not doing well against all the challenges that are inherent with any activity in the Himalayas. Kabir continued through this section, maintaining a steady pace fueled by his sister Sapana Rachure’s cooking and the encouragement of his crew. He too showed signs of fatigue on the top of the pass at 10:5am, compared to the first time he went over the pass the previous day.
Amit descended to Khaltse but appeared to be struggling to maintain his effort, and had to rest repeatedly before being unable to continue. From 11am onwards, just beyond Saspol, his struggle was obvious so his crew administered the Oxygen that had been provided to each vehicle, by Vicki Niaz of Ladakh Oxygen Plant. With no noticeable change, it was decided that he should be taken to the nearest medical center at Saspol where he was given medical attention. After resting for awhile, he courageously insisted that he wanted to finish the race, and he was given the clearance to continue, with the condition that he would discontinue at the slightest sign of further stress. By this time Kabir had continued his steady pace and gone past Saspol.
Kabir continued at a steady pace, encouraged by his devoted crew from Bombay who have been with him when he won 3rd place at Deccan Cliffhanger and 2nd place in the 1750km Ultra Spice Race. Escorted by Inspire India officials proudly through Leh Market he finished at 6:24pm (day 2) winning and becoming the 1st person to finish The Great Himalayan Ultra Race in 33hrs 23mins (not including the 3 hour halt). Amit rode steadily also, monitored closely by crew and officials to ensure he did not display any signs of distress and finished second at 19:04pm 34 hrs 3mins (not including the 3 hr halt at kargil).
Sumit who started from Kargil at 8:45am rode through the heat of the day to reach Fotu La late in the afternoon. Continuing at a steady pace he reached Saspol at about 8pm at little too late to meet the Race Across America qualification timing but looking strong even as he faced the strong cross winds at Magnetic hill, only 30 km before Leh. He was escorted from Leh airport by officials to finish well within the Inspire India cut-off, finishing third in 42 hrs and 7 mins.
Of this first edition Race Director Divya Tate said “The world’s highest Ultracycle race is set in the Himalayas, mountains that may not be underestimated. The extreme conditions are inherent to any activity in these mighty mountains and demand to be respected. They are humbling in their scale, and though the distance is only 600 km compared to other International Races it is 600 km of continuous challenge. The race is not so much against other racers, but in fact against all the forces of nature that have created these mountains.’
The winner of this first edition Kabir Rachure who has won podium finishes at all of Inspire India’s Ultra Races including 2nd place at the 1750km Ultra Spice Race, reached the finish line in a good mental and physical condition. Of the race he had this to say “I have raced all Inspire India Ultra Races and the 5 day Ultra Spice Race is also one of the tough races compared to similar international races, but The Great Himalayan is a very hard and intense experience. My approach was to dig deep into my training and mental reserves and to maintain a steady pace in the face of this tough terrain. This is not a race that can be done without a devoted team, and I am fortunate to have a committed crew who have taken a week off to be here and ensure my safety and my win.”