In a candid tete-a-tete, Capt Seshadri Sreenivasan catches up with India’s first and only bike enthusiast to have completed ten Super Randonneurs in one year.
A young engineer from Chennai discovered a passion for cycling after probably not having ridden after his early school days. An air conditioning engineer, who has worked with multinationals in a highly technical sphere in the field, is now an entrepreneur in his own right and has made sacrifices in business and family life in pursuit of his dreams.
RP: An SR is a cycling event in which you cover distances of 200, 300, 400 & 600 km in one year. The qualifying timings are 13.5, 20, 27 & 40 hours for each of the distances. The event is conducted by AUDAX, a UK based entity, that franchises it across the world. The annual calendar is from November to October of the following year.
FM: And you did 10 SRs in one year?
RP: (slow smile)… Yes.
FM: Wow! That is a whopping 16,000 km of cycling in one year. More than what a well-used car does in the same period! So what makes your engine run?
RP: (Laughs). Just a need for self-recognition, a sense of personal achievement, nothing based on medals or awards.
FM: So how did it all start?
RP: It started in June 2017, when I decided to accompany a lady friend on a 5 km cycling trip. By the end of the 4th km, I was exhausted and couldn’t go any further, I just gave up. This preyed on my mind so strongly that I wanted to push myself to bigger things. In August, I started out with two friends to do a 100 km trip to Mahabalipuram (56 km from Chennai) and back. The return part was pure hell. I had to keep stopping every now and then. At the end of it, my motivation became stronger and on September 3, I ventured out on ‘Dhatri’, a 100 km ride for a charitable cause. I was doomed to fail again, and quit at Kovalam, after about 65 km or so. This was the final straw and I promised myself that I would stretch my endurance to the limit to complete the distance.
FM: And when did you taste your first success?
RP: I came to know of the Super Randonneur through an organisation called BRM. In November 2017, I finished my first 100 km and the next month I managed 200 km. I also heard of this ace cyclist from Pune who had done a record 8 SRs in a single year, and I decided then and there that I had to break his feat. I even put out messages on social media that I planned to cross 8 SRs in 2018.
FM: That you achieved this stupendous feat is now part of the record books. But how did you actually do it?
RP: In January 2018, I joined the Noida Club team and completed one Super Randonneur in 6 days. This was some kind of world record. I did the event in reverse order, working down from 600 km to 200 km. Between January and October 2018, spread over 45 weeks, I traversed the length and breadth of India, covering 17 cities, in pursuit of my objective. Finally, on October 28, my dream came true. I completed my 10th SR within one year.
FM: What were the highlights of all this cycling across the country? The good and the bad?
RP: The best part was the people, their spontaneous hospitality, help and support. I made several good friends across the country. The organisers were very helpful with travel, accommodation and logistics. A fellow biking enthusiast, Saju Thangappan, was a pillar of strength and support. The elements could be both kind and extremely harsh. I encountered all seasons… rode through heat, dust, cold, wind and rain.
A major setback was on March 17, 2018, when I met with an accident in Bengaluru. I was laid low for one month and at times I felt that I would not be able to recover in time or to regain fitness to complete what I had set out to achieve. By mid-April, the scar on my thigh began to spread all over my leg and sometimes would even ooze liquid. There was a permanent wound for almost seven months. But I decided that this injury would not make me stop. Two doctors, one an injury specialist and the other a dermatologist, helped me immensely in my recovery, with the least amount of medication. To make matters worse, the planning went awry. Even a single missed weekend necessitated careful re-planning of the entire schedule.
(Smiles wryly). But in the end, it all panned out successfully.
FM: What kind of bike and accessories did you use?
RP: I started out with a Firefox MTB but later switched to a Ridley Road bike. I quite liked both, but found the Ridley more suited to my style and my event. As for gear, I never had any specific or special kit. I monitored my schedule on my smartphone and used very basic accessories, more from the safety and comfort point of view than anything else. In fact, I wore sandals most of the time. Many people harbour the misconception that cycling is a costly sport; I beg to disagree. What it needs is just a lot of confidence and self-belief. While accessories are useful, I do not consider them essential for achievement.
FM: What kind of diet and training schedules did you maintain?
RP: Actually, I did not have any specific training calendar, nor did I stick to any kind of special diet. Yes, biking needs a strong core, and I concentrated on core exercises during the week and long- distance cycling on weekends. As for diet, I followed the simple, staple food habits of a typical South Indian. That’s all!
FM: How did you manage family and business commitments?
RP: My working wife and our 8-year-old daughter were not just understanding, but provided unstinted support and encouragement. Nothing could have been possible without this. My business partners were also extremely supportive and looked after all my duties while I was away.
FM: And what next? The Tour de France perhaps?
RP: (Laughs loud). No, certainly not the Tour de France; far from my list of favourites. I also love running and swimming, so a triathlon could very much be in the offing.
FM: One final question. What would your message be for today’s youth?
RP: It’s actually very simple. Do not run behind myths or chase rainbows. Give considerable thought about what you want to achieve and never forget basics. Try out your choices and when you have narrowed down on something, give it your best effort. Understand the difference between being ‘fit’ and being ‘healthy’. This also includes not being carried away by ‘diets’. Each individual has different body constitutions and one must try and understand that in training and in diet, just as in life, there is no ‘one size fits all’!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Capt Seshadri Sreenivasan is a former armed forces officer with over 30 years experience in marketing. He also a consulting editor with a leading publishing house. He is a co-author of the best selling biography of astronaut Sunita Williams.