Post Race Report of the 3rd edition of the Ultra Spice Race – 26th Jan 2019
The 1750 km solo participants were all elite and accomplished racers, including Inspire India Ultra Award winner with 4 RAAM qualifications already, Kabir Rachure from Mumbai who won 2nd place in this same race last year. Also racing was the winner of the 3rd place in last year’s Ultra Spice 1750 km Bharat Pannu from Nasik and Narayanan Sundaram from Goa who is also RAAM qualified at The Deccan Cliffhanger 3 times in the past! They were joined by Karthik Padmanabhan from Chennai, who qualified for RAAM, winning his category in the very first edition of Deccan Cliffhanger and Dhanraj Karkera of WERC Mangalore who is a very accomplished long distance racer. In addition this year’s race saw Ila Patil the first and only Indian woman who has Qualified for Race Across Americaattempt this extreme challenge of 1750 km solo!
In another first, the 1750km saw The Pedal Demons, a team of 2 from Pune, Adesh Kale and Dhanraj Helambe attempting relay from Goa to Ooty and back. There was another team of 2 from Pune, Team Gear and Beer with brothers Kaustubh Arvind Dandekar and Rohit Dandekar attempting 1000km relay, and Mayank Tripathi from Pune who raced solo 1000km. The 600 km solo race had Shlomi Kot from Israel who has previously raced at the Race across Germany and @Vivek Shah from Ahmedabad. Additionally since each participant has to have a support crew, we had over 60 people of various sporting background like ultra runners, racers, randonneurs and ironmen in the role of crew support for the racers.
The RACE flow
The Race started on 26th at 7am on Bogmalo Beach in Goa, with all 13 participating solos and teams setting off along the coastline for the southern mountains. The race was fast paced with Kabir, Sundaram, Shlomi, Bharat and Mayank exchanging lead positions for the first 200 km, after which they climbed up towards Jog falls. With the first of big climbs, this is where the race field starts to spread out. An unfortunate accident caused Sundaram to withdraw from the race at the 250km mark. In this region, Dhanraj Karkera of Mangalore developed severe health issues that forced him to stop for the entire night, on the side of the road in the fields, while he was attended to by his crew.
In the 600 km category, by nightfall Shlomi had turned around at the 300 km point, in Anandapuram where Greeshma Soley and team along with the Media crew waited to ensure passage. Vivek turned around just after 10pm and both headed back down from the mountains, overseen by Shreeta Sherigar and team, in the night to reach the coast and continue to finish by mid day of the 27th. Both of them finished within their respective cut off times to Qualify for RAAM.
The rest of the solos and teams in the 1000 and 1750 km race, continued towards the coffee plantations of Chikmagalur in the cold mist of the night. Passing the well lit control point of Town Canteen at Chikmagalur, they headed for the unremarkable bus stop at Bhage in which race director Divya Tate and team waited shivering in their sleeping bags, to ensure their passage!
In the 1750 km race, Kabir and Team Pedal Demons had passed the 500Km mark in under 21 hours, followed soon after by Bharat Pannu. Early on the 27th in just under 24 hours the 1000 km participants, Mayank (solo) and the Team Gear and Beer turned around from there to head back towards Jog falls. Karthik and Ila setting a more relaxed pace passed the 500 km mark a little later in the day. Dhanraj who had received medical intervention in the form of saline, restarted to race with a set back of almost 9-10 hours.
By lunchtime of the 27th, Team Pedal Demons, Bharat and Kabir were past Coorg and in the Wayanad section of Kerala, facing heat and humidity again, before they started to climb towards Ooty in the evening hours. The Pedal Demons turned around at Ooty 875km in less than 42 hours and headed back towards Goa. In the meantime by close of day, the 1000 km participants were leaving the mountains to reach the coast again. They continued through the night with the Team Gear and Beer finishing just under 48 hours and Mayank finishing solo 1000km a few hours later on the 28th of Jan, within his cut off time to qualify for RAAM.
Bharat and Kabir turned around at Ooty in the early dawn hours in freezing cold temperatures, in less than 48 hours. Kabir’s crew brushed icicles from his beard as he talked about the wildlife he had seen on his way up. Late during the warmth of the day Karthik, Ila and Dhanraj on their way up to Ooty, passed the lead of the race in the Wayanad section of the race.
By the close of the day, the Team Pedal Demons were in Coorg, Bharat and Kabir climbing up from Kerala into Coorg. Karthik turned around in Ooty around dinner time, followed soon after by Ila Patil and Dhanraj Karkera. Ila made a swift turn around into the cold night to descend through the Nilgiris towards Kerala. Dhanraj faced a second health set back and his team decided to let him recover for a few hours in Ooty. Starting next morning the 29th, he rode very strong and closed the gap again by the time he reached Madikeri that night. By then The Pedal Demons supported by a very efficient crew made up of a number of regular cyclists from Pune had ridden a fantastic race to finish at Goa. They are the first relay team to finish 1750 km in 85hrs 24mins.
On 29th night Bharat was just descending from the mountains to the coastline and Kabir was a few hours behind him. Karthik refreshed by a fresh hot meal cooked by his crew on the road, rode strong that night as he left Coorg for the last time, heading for Chikmagalur. Ila showed her first signs of fatigue and stopped for some rest. 30th morning saw Bharat win the race in under 96 hours (including 30 mins penalty time), having raced to put a considerable gap between himself and Kabir. Bharat currently holds the record time for Ultra Spice 1750 at 95hrs 47 mins.
Kabir reached the finish in a under 101 hours, winning 2nd place having enjoyed the attentions of his sister’s Sapana’s cooking and his crews encouragement. Both racers will be racing at RAAM 2019 in a few months and the Ultra Spice Race 1750 is the best training they can do to ensure they are prepared for the 5000 km race.
30th morning saw Karthik riding steady towards Goa, while Dhanraj and Ila faced the possibility that they will not finish in the RQ cut off. Their crew and the race officials were very clear though that finishing an arduous race like this is an achievement in itself and cheered the 2 right through the Chikmagalur to Jog falls section.
Karthik rode the coastal section, without major breaks through the night to finish in the early morning of the 31st, winning 3rd place and qualifying for RAAM. Ila and Dhanraj faced the heat of the coastline that entire day but kept going. In a wonderful show of camaraderie Kabir and his crew came out for the last 50-60 kms to cheer the last 2 participants of the Ultra Spice Race to the finish line! Dhanraj finished in just under 132 hours and he and his crew for the We R Cycling club Mangalore, also waited to receive Ila who came in close to midnight to finish in just over 137 hours, to a huge celebration of the first woman in India to attempt and finish such a long distance!
Wrapping up this edition of the Ultra Spice Race, Race Director Divya Tate said “It was a truly wonderful event, and the finish line celebrations demonstrated how the Ultracycling community in India has grown into a family! Inspire India is proud of its role in establishing this community through these races which bring together so many elite cyclists from different parts of the country and with the International Ultracycling community.’’