I, along with Darshan Dubey successfully completed Race Around Austria - 2017 in team of two category. Race Around Austria is regarded to be the toughest endurance bike race in Europe. RAA came into inception since August 2008. This race has also become the qualifying race for the Race Across America since 2010. The race route is spanning along the border of Austria on the highways as well as on the country roads. It is a 2200 km race with elevation gain of mammoth 98,500 feet in the mighty Alps Mountains. The time given to finish the race is 108 hours i.e. 04 days and 12 hours. This implies the riders has to ride a minimum of 460 km along with elevation gain of 20,550 feet in a day to finish the race in the stipulated time limit.
Race Across America is considered as the toughest Endurance sporting event and on seeing the difficulty level depicted by the Race Around Austria, it will not be wrong in considering it as a mini-RAAM.
Earlier attempts at RAA by an Indian. This race is quite famous amongst the international cycling fraternity and cyclists from around the globe participate in the event. In 2016, an unsuccessful attempt was made by an Indian cyclist Mr. Ammar Miyaji, Nashik to complete RAA in the stipulated time limit.
The aim of the riders was to accomplish the unfinished agenda of completing Race Around Austria and thereby become the first cyclists from India to finish an ultra-cycling endurance event in Europe.
Divya Tate was the crew chief for the event. She has got 25 years of cycling experience by participating in the various international cycling events such as RAAM, RAW, RAE and RAA including RAAM as an official. She is the AUDAX India Representative. She herself conducts three RAAM qualifier races in India Deccan Cliffhanger, Himalayan Ultra and Ultra Spice Race. Chaitanya Velhal was responsible for the training of the riders for the event. He is a triathlon coach and Director at MultiFit Fitness.
Team Inspire India at Race Around Austria, Bharat Pannu and Darshan Dubey, 2 person relay team successfully completed Race Around Austria in under 100 hours! The race is a 2200 km in the Alps with almost 27000 Mt of Elevation to be climbed. The 2 Racers Bharat Pannu a Super Randonneur who is RAAM (Race Across America) Qualified at the Ultra Spice race, and Darshan Dubey who has done many Audax events, and crewed at Deccan Cliffhanger and Ultra Spice had to overcome many different challenges to be able to succeed at this Race! The first 2 days were unseasonably hot, but with storms with hail, severe winds, lightning and thunder on the first 2 nights. On one occasion the weather conditions were so bad that Bharat just could not continue, and had to stop for almost 30 mins to wait for the storm to reduce in intensity! The mountain climbs included the famous Grossglockner mountain pass, which is the highest motorable pass in Austria at 2500 Mts was climbed on the third evening, under cold tough conditions with ice on the sides of the road, and 3 degrees centigrade temperatures! But that was not the only challenging climb, as there were about 8 long climbs in addition to a lot of smaller ones! The duo was however excited to be riding in picture-perfect Alpine terrain! The downhills also sometimes came with a challenge of the riders becoming too cold as the wind chill factor as the descended at 50-60 Kmph was a lot. The 2 racers were accompanied by a crew of 7 people from India and Austria in 2 motor vehicles, managing all the support that is essential for these Ultra races. The crew was in 2 teams, in one Van which was the Pace car and always with the racers and in one Motorhome. The crew manage everything from logistics and navigation to cooking cleaning and feeding the racers for all the time during the race, and all this is done without much sleep and on the move. The racers did most relays (took turns riding) of 40 mins each except at night when they each rode 2 hours to allow the other to sleep for that time. At times though on the long tough climbs, the riders would be taking turns for only 2 to 6 mins. The race strategy and logistics were managed by the Crew Chief Divya Tate from Pune and the team Coach Chaitanya Velhal - Team Chai. Additionally, the crew included Monish Deshmukh, Sanjay Mokal, Vamseedhar Bezawada, Rutwik Mulay and Daniel Schneider.
The race starts and finishes in a small village, St. Georgen im Attergau, in Austria which turns the whole place into a big festival with cultural celebrations around this cycling event! The Inspire India team also enjoyed the encouragement and support of many locals, especially the Moshammer family from St Georgen who not only took great trouble to help with all the planning and preparations before the race but came far out onto the race route on 3 of the race so that Hannes Moshammer of Team Akkura, could ride along with the racers Bharat and Darshan and the whole family helped to cheer them on the route! The crew and the racers of Team Inspire India are deeply grateful to them for the love and encouragement they got from them and many others in this lovely country!