Team Inspire India at Race Around Austria, Bharat Pannu and Darshan Dubey, 2 person relay team successfully complete Race Around Austria in under 100 hours! The race is a 2200 km in the Alps with almost 27000 Mt of Elevation to be climbed. The 2 Racers Bharat Pannu a Super Randonneur who is RAAM (Race Across America) Qualified at the Ultra Spice race, and Darshan Dubey who has done many Audax events, and crewed at Deccan Cliffhanger and Ultra Spice had to overcome many different challenges to be able to succeed at this Race!

The first 2 days were unseasonably hot, but with storms with hail, severe winds, lightning and thunder on the first 2 nights. On one occasion the weather conditions were so bad that Bharat just could not continue, and had to stop for almost 30 mins to wait for the storm to reduce in intensity! The mountain climbs included the famous Grossglockner mountain pass, which is the highest motorable pass in Austria at 2500 Mts was climbed on the third evening, under cold tough conditions with ice on the sides of the road, and 3 degrees centigrade temperatures! But that was not the only challenging climb, as there were about 8 long climbs in addition to a lot of smaller ones! The duo was however excited to be riding in picture perfect Alpine terrain! The downhills also sometimes came with a challenge of the riders becoming too cold as the wind chill factor as the descended at 50-60 Kmph was a lot.

The 2 racers were accompanied by a crew of 7 people from India and Austria in 2 motor vehicles, managing all the support that is essential for these Ultra races. The crew was in 2 teams, in one Van which was the Pace car and always with the racers and in one Motorhome. The crew manage everything from logistics and navigation to cooking cleaning and feeding the racers for all the time during the race, and all this is done without much sleep and on the move. The racers did most relays (took turns riding) of 40 mins each except at night when they each rode 2 hours to allow the other to sleep for that time. At times though on the long tough climbs, the riders would be taking turns for only 2 to 6 mins. The race strategy and logistics were managed by the Crew Chief Divya Tate from Pune and the team Coach Chaitanya Velhal – Team Chai. Additionally the crew included Monish Deshmukh, Sanjay Mokal, Vamseedhar Bezawada, Rutwik Mulay and Daniel Schneider.

The race starts and finishes in a small village, St. Georgen im Attergau, in Austria which turns the whole place into a big festival with cultural celebrations around this cycling event! The Inspire India team also enjoyed the encouragement and support of many locals, especially the Moshammer family from St Georgen who not only took great trouble to help with all the planning and preparations before the race but came far out onto the race route on 3 of the race so that Hannes Moshammer of Team Akkura, could ride along with the racers Bharat and Darshan and the whole family helped to cheer them on the route! The crew and the racers of Team Inspire India are deeply grateful to them for the love and encouragement they got from them and many others in this lovely country!

QUOTES

At the finish Bharat Pannu said “This has been an awesome experience to succeed in our mission of being the first Indians to finish any Ultra Race in Europe! The Race Around Austria is a demanding race and we are happy to have lived up to the challenge!”

Divya Tate of Inspire India – “Inspire India was founded with an aim to inspire more and more Indians to take to cycling and experience a transformation of themselves, environment and society through the medium of cycling… and this event has been a great success. I am certain we will see a lot more Indians take to cycling in India and succeed in events abroad.”

Of the race Darshan Dubey said “We have had a very enriching experience at Race Around Austria, receiving so much hospitality and encouragement from people here, especially the Moshammer family. The best part of reaching the finish line was to see the huge support for India.”

The coach Chaitanya Velhal said – “The success of my trainees is a prime example of how the right kind of training and commitment to a goal can help athletes achieve the impossible. I am very proud of having been a part of this successful race.”

THE TEAM

LT COL BHARAT PANNU

Lt Col Bharat Pannu is a aeronautical engineer and hails from Rohtak, Haryana. He is employed with Indian Army since June 2005 and he is presently posted at Nasik Aviation Base maintaining the helicopters of the Indian Army. He was inclined towards cycling since his childhood, but he only took the hobby seriously about a year back i.e. Mar 2016.

Lt Col Bharat Pannu started Randonneuring from November 2016 and he is presently holding two titles of Super Randonneur within a short span of 05 months. Randonneuring (also known as Audax in the UK, Australia and Brazil) is a long-distance cycling sport in which, the riders attempt courses of 200 km or more (upto 600 km), passing through predetermined checkpoints. He also converted his passion for cycling into a success in the arena of Ultra Cycling, by becoming the first Indian to successfully complete any Ultra race in India of a distance longer than 400 miles! He achieved this feat by participating in the first edition of Ultra Spice Race (1000 km) in January 2017. By successfully completing the Ultra Spice Race, he has also qualified for prestigious Race Across America (RAAM), which is regarded as the toughest cycling race at present.

DARSHAN DUBEY

Darshan Dubey is a post graduate in business design and hails from Nasik, Maharashtra. At present, he is employed as Store Manager with Aditya Birla Retail at Bangalore. He started with long distance cycling two years ago by participating in Audax events. He has crewed for Omkar Kesarkar in The Deccan Clilffhanger 2016 and for Bharat Pannu at the The Ultra Spice Race 2017. Race Around Austria 2017 would be his maiden competitive event.

THE CREW

Crew Chief – Divya Tate, 25 years of cycling, first woman from India toqualify for PBP, Audax India national representative, with 5 yrs of Ultra Crewing and Officiating experience, including RAAM, RAW, RAE, RAA and of course her own ultra races The Deccan Cliffhangers and Ultra Spice Race which create opportunities for Indians to qualify, train and participate in an International event within India itself.

Coach – Chaitanya Velhal – Team Chai – Thrice RAAM Qualifed, Twice Ironman, Crewed at Deccan Cliffhanger and RAAM, Phyisical trainer with Multifit and coach for Ultras and Ironman!

Logistics – Monish Deshmukh – With 2 Masters degrees, he has crewed at Deccan Cliffhanger and D500 for Chai, and part of the Deccan Cliffhanger team.

Bike Tech – Sanjay Mokal – Long history of cycling, passionate and highly trained Bike Mechanic, worked with Decathlon previously, now with TI cycles as technical support, training other Mechanics.

Local Expert – Vamseedhar Bezawada A Hyderbad Randonneur who has spent time in Germany, and is comfortable in speaking German.

Local Expert – Daniel Schneider – An Austrian cyclist who plans to race at RAA sometime, lives right on the RAA course, and is familiar with the terrain.

Local Expert – Rutwik Mulay – A student in Munich who hails from Pune and has been a National skating champion in India.

THE SUPPORTERS

Inspire India, the Ultra Cycling sports company founded by DIvya Tate, based from Pune has long been working to Inspire Indians to push their limits in endurance cycling. Quote from Divya Tate – “Inspire India was founded with an aim to inspire more and more Indians to take to cycling and experience a transformation of themselves, environment and society through the medium of cycling… and this event has been a great success. I am certain we will see a lot more Indians take to cycling in India and succeed in events abroad.”
Triumph Sportswear based in Ahmedabad provided all the Team with a very good looking kit, Jerseys and Shorts, including warmers and jackets.

Fast and Up India is providing Nutrition support to the riders during the training period as well as during the race.

Udchalo, a Startup for which provides services to the Indian Armed Forces for cheaper air travel is supporting the Team by providing a financial aid.

Luthra Agencies, Nashik is supporting the team by providing spares for the road bikes required during the event.

KRU Cycling is supporting the team by providing 25 % discount on the clincher racing wheels required by the team during the event.

Why Race Around Austria?

Race Around Austria is regarded to be the toughest endurance bike race in Europe. RAA came into inception since August 2008. This race has also become the qualifying race for the Race Across America since 2010.

The race route is spanning along the border of Austria on the highways as well as on the country roads. It is a 2200 km race with elevation gain of mammoth 98,500 feet in the mighty Alps Mountains. It is almost equivalent to climbing Mt. Everest three times during the race duration. The race starts from St Georgen im Attergau from an elevation of 1400 feet and covers 09 major peaks in the Alps Mountains, the highest being the Grossglockner at the height of 13,800 feet.

The time given to finish the race is 108 hours i.e. 04 days and 12 hours. This implies the rider has to ride a minimum of 490 km along with elevation gain of 20,550 feet in a day to finish the race in stipulated time limit. Race Across America is considered as the toughest Endurance sporting event and on seeing the difficulty level depicted by the Race Around Austria, it will not be wrong in considering it as a Mini-RAAM.

Earlier attempts at RAA by an Indian. This race is quite famous amongst the international cycling fraternity and cyclists from around the globe participate in the event. In 2016, an unsuccessful attempt was made by an Indian cyclist Mr. Ammar Miyaji, Nashik to complete RAA in the stipulated time limit.

The aim of the riders was to accomplish the unfinished agenda of completing Race Around Austria and thereby become the first cyclists from India to finish an ultra-cycling endurance event in Europe…. AND IN THIS THEY WERE SUCCESSFUL!