The morning calm and the fresh sea breeze that greets you is what Sumit Patil loves to see and feel while he peddles his way through the city every morning. The 28-year-old began cycling like anyone else in childhood but professionally took it up since the past four years. Now, Patil is training for the ultimate endurance cycling race in the world – Race Across America (RAAM) – scheduled to begin in June.
At 5am, Patil begins cycling journey from Prabhadevi, where he resides to Nariman Point. Then heads to the sloppy terrains of Walkeshwar-Malabar Hills to Shivaji Park, where he takes at least 10 rounds and then back home.
Patil, who hails from Alibaug, is among 53 solo participants to take part in the race from the West Coast to the East Coast (starting from California and ending in Annapolis). The cyclists have to complete approximately 5,000km in 12 days – about 400km a day. Patil has registered himself with team AGNI consisting of eight to nine members. In fact, it was a team member who is also his mentor that told him about RAAM.
For Patil, Sara is his companion. “Sara is my bike's name. I keep talking to her during my training. I do this because there has been times when people start to hallucinate and fall asleep while cycling. Your only company on the road is your cycle. It's better to built a good rapport with it,” said Patil.
It is difficult to seek sponsorship for this sport. Patil has been seeking sponsorship of around Rs40 lakh for his back-up team, hiring of vehicles and round-trip air tickets. Patil approached several corporate houses for the same, but the response in the cricket-crazy country has been far from satisfactory.
“So far, I have stayed away from the fundraising part and concentrated on clocking the miles. However, subconsciously, it does affect me because except cricket, no other sport is encouraged here. Most corporate houses haven't said no, but nobody has said yes either,” he said.
His friends from AGNI and he have managed to pay the entry fee of Rs2.5 lakh, but are struggling to collect the required amount.
RAAM does not give rewards to those who compete the race, so what's Patil's motivation in taking part in the global event? “A limit today is no limit tomorrow. It's like faith... today you believe in something and tomorrow it could change. It's similar with endurance cycling. Today, you think you can pedal 100km in a day; tomorrow, you will break the barrier. This applies to RAAM too - it's pushing the human body to a different limit and that's the reward,” he said.