Pune: An army officer has become the first Indian to complete the Race Across America (RAAM), which is known as the “world’s toughest bicycle race”.
The competition had over 250 competitors on a 5,000-km route stretching from Oceanside, California to Annapolis, Maryland in the USA. Solo racers are required to finish the race in 12 days or 288 hours to get the official recognition for the completion of the race.
Lieutenant Colonel Srinivas Gokulnath, who is a graded specialist in Aviation Medicine and currently posted with an Army establishment in Nasik, became the first Indian to have successfully completed the race in the solo category when he completed the strenuous 5,000-km cycling expedition in a record 11 days, 18 hours and 45 minutes last month.
The officer was commissioned into the Army Medical Corps in 2005. For 37-year-old Srinivas, cycling is second nature. He was born in a middle-class family in Bengaluru and circumstances required him to cycle long distances.
Lt Col Srinivas is an alumnus of the Dr BR Ambedkar Medical College, Bengaluru and MD in Aerospace Medicine. In 2016, his first attempt to conquer the RAAM failed because of poor preparation and planning. Heartbroken and almost inconsolable, he quit the race after riding for nearly 2,500 miles because he ran out of time.
In the RAAM, participants race continuously day and night, on their own backed by a crew of 8 to15 people following them in vehicles with food and supply for the race. These adventurers brave wind, thunderstorms, fatigue and sleep deprivation, cross several major mountain ranges and raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for charity.
The RAAM offers long-distance cyclists the opportunity to challenge themselves to the limit of their abilities. Just over 300 solo cyclists in the world have completed the race since its first edition in 1982.
Lt Col Srinivas is an endurance cyclist since 2009 and has participated in a number of cycling events. He had finished third in the Deccan Cliffhanger cycling event held in the Pune in November 2014. He is currently a record holder for cycling 4,000 kms, from Leh to Kanyakumari and has his name entered in the ‘Limca Book of Records’. He qualified for RAAM races twice and successfully completed it on his second attempt.