Om Mahajan will not be 18 until next month, but he has already broken the record for the fastest cycling trip through India. (More sports news)
Mahajan, a resident of Nashik, Maharashtra, cycled the 3,600 km distance from Srinagar to Kanyakumari by bicycle in eight days, seven hours and 38 minutes, ending on Saturday afternoon.
“I’ve always been in cycling, but it was more about sprinting. I started dreaming about endurance cycling and competing in Race Across America (RAAM) after the lockdown started,” said Om said, addressing the PTI minutes after reaching Kanyakumari.
“About six months ago I started training for the RAAM qualifying race which was to take place in November,” he said.
But rather than embark on the standard 600 km qualifying race, Om has set itself a “Race Across India”.
He left Srinagar on a cold night last week, and braved heavy rains in Madhya Pradesh and grueling heat in the south before reaching the destination.
The existing Guinness Book record for the fastest bike ride from Srinagar to Kanyakumari is held by his uncle, Mahendra Mahajan.
However, that record was recently broken by Lt. Col. Bharat Pannu of the Indian Army, who walked the distance in eight days and nine hours, although it is not yet listed in the Guinness Book.
Young Mahajan had glanced at Pannu’s record.
“Sleeping or even resting was a luxury,” he said, adding that riding in the cold was the hardest part.
As news of Om’s success spread across the cycling community on social media on Saturday, Lieutenant-Colonel Pannu was quick to congratulate the 17-year-old.
Om’s father Hitendra and his uncle Mahendra won RAAM as a team of two in 2015. They also hold a record for the fastest race along the Golden Quadrangle.
The pandemic delayed his departure for Kansas, United States, where he enrolled in a graduate course in sports management, Om said. But it also gave him time to train.
An experienced crew of cyclists including his father and uncle, as well as RAAM solo finisher Kabir Raichure accompanied him in a vehicle as a “support team”.
“I only covered the distance. A lot of the credit goes to the crew. It’s our collective record,” said Om.
His next challenge is the RAAM, often described as the toughest cycle race on the planet. To complete it successfully, Om will have to travel 4,800 km in 12 days.
But for now, he can enjoy the luxury of watching the sunset over Kanyakumari Beach, without even looking at the watch.
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