Two hours, 14 minutes, 14 seconds. That is the time 50-year-old Vinod Punamiya took to cover 140 km from Pune to Dombivili in a cycle. Deccan Queen Express, one of India’s fastest trains, took 20 minutes more to cover the same distance. It did not happen incidentally; Punamiya, a jewellery designer, has been practising hard his dream of beating the Deccan Queen. And on Sunday morning, he did finally beat the train.
Punamiya always dreamt of beating the Deccan Queen on a bicycle since early days, but never really attempted it. But three months ago, he started practising on his US-made Rs 5-lakh racer cycle on the old Pune-Mumbai highway with his friend and coach Sanjay Borde.
“Three months ago, I discussed the idea with Sanjay Borde who is also a cyclist and we started practising for it in the night every day. Every day, I would practice for nearly three hours on the highway from 2am to 5 am and then return back home. It was my dream that has come true today and it has proved that manual power can beat machine power,” said Punamiya.
Punamiya started from Balewadi in Pune at 7:10 am on his bicycle at the same time when Deccan Queen leaves from Pune station and reached Dombivili station around 9:24 am, which is nearly 20 minutes earlier than the Deccan Queen. His average speed in the race was nearly 90-100 km per hour amid heavy traffic at Panvel and Vashi road. Villagers on the Pune-Mumbai highway cheered Punamiya throughout the way. There was a huge crowd waiting for him at the Dombivili station to welcome him.
MLA Harishchandra Patil, KDMC Mayor Pundalik Mhatre and Thane Police Commissioner D Sivanandan were also present at Dombivili and felicitated him. “People nowadays do not pay proper attention to cycling and most of them are mad about cricket. People should understand that there are many such events where we can beat people in international competitions. My race was an attempt to prove this,” said Punamiya.