The 2nd edition of the Ultra Spice Race was flagged off on the 27th of January 2018 from Bogmalo Beach, Goa. The race is a multi day non-stop race that is a qualifier for one of the world’s toughest races, Race Across America (RAAM) and proved to fit the tag line of the toughest ultracycle race in India. The race had 3 distances of 600, 1000 and 1750 kms to choose from. 5 men raced 1750 km solo, 1 men’s team of 3 raced the 1000 km distance, 1 solo raced the 600 km and 1 mixed team of 2 raced the 600 km distance!
The winner of the Ultra Spice Race 1000 km inaugural edition… Bharat Pannu along with Darshan Dubey successfully raced at Race Around Austria2017 in 2 person team for 2200km! Srinivas Gokulnath Qualified for Race Across America twice at Inspire India‘s signature race… The Deccan Cliffhanger and went on to become one of only 2 Indians to become RAAM Finishers! Sumit Patil RQed and attempted RAAM in 2014. He is the first to have attempted The Ultra Spice Race 1750 km solo! Kabir Rachure who qualified for RAAM at Deccan Cliffhanger 2017 winning 3rd place will be going for the 1750 km Ultra Spice! Vasanth Manivannan who qualified for RAAM at Deccan Cliffhanger 2017 will be going for the 1750 km Ultra Spice with his crew Chief Karthik Padmanabhan who qualified for RAAM in the very first edition of DC! A very warm welcome to Jagdish Italiya who has been a Deccan Cliffhanger groupie! Hari Prasad, Masood Teekay and Srikantharaj partner up for 3 person team in the 1000 km Category! Crank Correspondent, Double Super Randonneusse Meera Velankar who has many races to her name partners with Abhishek Diwadkar under the coaching of Miten Thakker!
The Race started at 7am on Bogmalo Beach in Goa, with all 8 participating solos and teams setting off for the southern mountains. By afternoon the heat had started to take a couple of victims. Vasanth M. attempting solo 1750 km, got badly depleted and had to take rest for a few hours until the heat had abated before he could carry on. This lost him a lot of time on the very first day, but that did not stop him from making a strong and steady comeback over the next couple of days. Jagdish who was attempting 600km solo also felt the heat but continued riding. The other 4 solos in the 1750 km race, continued into the forest covered mountains leading to Jog falls, with Srinivas leading the way, followed very closely by Bharat. The 3 person team of Mangalore Bicycle Club, attempting 1000km, for whom this was a debut Ultrarace, demonstrated flawless transitions between riders and vehicles to be right up front with Srinivas and Bharat. Crank Cyclozeal, 2 person mixed team of Meera and Abhishek, in the 600km race, for whom also this was a first attempt at an Ultrarace did a great job of climbing up the toughest part of their race by sundown.
Turning around at the 300Km mark, the 2 person team headed back towards the coast at 9:30, passing Jagdish who turned around at 11:30pm. Jagdish descended through dense fog in the Jog falls forest sections to reach the coast early in the morning. Continuing till about 100 kms before the finish, he and his crew decided to withdraw from the race due to severe knee pain. Crank Cyclozeal continued along the coast, feeling the heat and finished the race, but outside of time limits. Race Director Divya Tate who would like to see more women participate in Inspire India races said, “Meera Velankar is only the third woman to participate in 2 person team category so far in the 7 Ultra races that I have conducted including 5 Deccan Cliffhangers and 2 Ultra Spice races. Only one team finished in time, and I am happy that Meera took on this challenge and hope that this brings more women into Ultra racing’’!
In the meantime in the Chikmagalur section of the race, the 5 solos and the Mangalore team were also facing dense fog and cold as they raced towards the 500 km control point at Bhage. The Mangalore team turned around at 4:30 having done the distance in about 21hours, to head back through the same route towards the coast at Honavar. Srinivas was the next to pass through this control point at 4:42am and head for Coorg. He was followed at intervals of about 3 hours each by Bharat, Kabir, Vasanth and Sumit who reached at 6:30pm that evening. After a sleep break at Madikeri, Srinivas left just as Bharat was arriving but on fresh rested legs, he was able to increase the gap very soon. Divya – “In multi day Ultra racing, planning your sleep cycles so that you can sustain a high level of output during your on-saddle hours, is crucial to overall performance”!
The Mangalore Bicycle Club rode through the day and into the next night to finish in just under 44 hours, well within the cut off time. During that night Srinivas was climbing the big climb to Ooty the highest point on the race and the turn point at 875km for the 1750 km race. Reaching there early in the morning he had covered the distance in under 2 days. Bharat followed to turn around at 10:30am passing Kabir who was on his way up the long mountain climb. Vasanth followed, to reaching the turn point late that night having taken about 63 hours or a little over 2 and a half days. Setting a steady pace after his first day’s issues he was well within the time needed to make it back to the finish line in time. Sumit reached the 758km control in Wayanad the next morning, missing the 3 day (72 hr) cut off at Ooty and decided to withdraw from the race at Gudalur at the base of the Ooty climb.
The solo racers continued through this section of the route, which covers a lot of descending and climbing in Kerala through what were very bad sections of road to race through Coorg once again. Srinivas reached Bhage 1255km in a little less than 3 days. By this time Bharat, who had been facing a lot of issues with his Knees and had also started to get neck pains was forced to stop and take a rest break for a couple of hours. Starting that evening from near Bhage with 500 kms to go, Kabir and he were within 7 mins of each other. While Srinivas was unchallenged now for the first place, a race unfolded between Bharat and Kabir for the second place. For the next 24 hours, both passed each control within a few minutes of each other, though a friendly competition spirit was established, with Kabir and his crew offering help and food to Bharat. Vasanth followed a few hours behind them passing Bhage with 27 hours to finish the last 500 kms. Unfortunately later that afternoon, on what was a fairly easy stretch of road, Vasanth had a mishap, taking a fall over some speedbreakers and injuring his shoulder badly. Withdrawing from the race, he was taken to a hospital in Shimoga for treatment.
Srinivas had descended to the coastline at Honavar by late evening and proceeded along the coast road through the cool of the night. He reached the finish line in 97hrs and 37mins becoming the first person to finish the 1750 km race! Bharat and Kabir kept up with each other till they reached Honavar in the mid afternoon, where Kabir took a break from the heat. By the next control point at Karwar, with only 100 kms to go, Kabir was behind Bharat by half an hour and it looked like Bharat was clear for the second place. But Kabir picked up the pace in the last few hours, and raced past Bharat to clinch the second place in 112hrs 50mins, one hour ahead of Bharat, who finished third!
Wrapping up an exciting Ultra Spice Race with this, Race Director Divya Tate said “This was an exciting 2nd edition of this race. Inspire India is glad to have created a tough ultra race in India that not only showcases a fabulous terrain, but will give racers here a chance to challenge themselves at the same level as other International Ultra Races. We look forward to growing this race with Indian and International participation over the next few years!’’