Three Goan cyclists make lifetime memories on way to Khardungla pass

After training on Goa's heights that go up to a maximum 800 metres, the three tested their endurance, on some of the highest motorable roads in Northern India
(From L to R) Sangam Patil, Sanket Naik and Flavian Sutari on their epic ride.
(From L to R) Sangam Patil, Sanket Naik and Flavian Sutari on their epic ride.

"The pain feels nothing in front of the dream achieved," is how Flavian Sutari from Loutolim sums up his tough and unsupported cycle ride to the highest motorable pass in the world -- the Khardungla pass at 5,600 metres in the Ladakh range.

While motorcyclists find the ride up to the Khardungla pass daunting and challenging, one can imagine what it must be to cover the entire route from Manali to Leh and onwards to Khardungla on a humble cycle and pure human endurance.

And at age 55, when many just give up on life and their dreams, Flavian, a regular cyclist, was determined to challenge his physical abilities by pushing himself -- and he did it with flying colours.

Mission accomplished: Flavian at Khardungla.
Mission accomplished: Flavian at Khardungla.

Excitement and Joy

Even though Flavian could make it to the top, he says his excitement and joy would have been double if his much younger fellow cyclists -- Sanket Naik, 36, a school principal in Sal-Bicholim, and Sangam Patil, 38, who works with the Goa State Rural Livelihoods Mission, had also made it to Khardungla pass for the final photo op with him.

While Sangam had to abort his ride due to a bleeding nose brought on by the cold and dry weather of the region, Sanket had a fall that had a disastrous effect on his entire boy due to the weather conditions.

The three started their adventurous ride on July 9 from the Manali Mall road which lies at 1800 metres. After completing the Rohtang pass at 3980 metres, Sangam returned to the start point (Manali Mall road) due to medical reasons that arose from his bleeding nose.

(From L to R) Sangam Patil, Sanket Naik and Flavian Sutari on their epic ride.
Green, abundant and wild

Despite all the pain

However, Sanket, despite the fall and the pain on the third day, pressed on along with Flavian and managed to ride around 475 kilometres after which his body could not take it anymore. At one point, his oxygen level fell to 65.

Describes Sanket, "The climate was too cold and the lack of oxygen made it more difficult for me. My body wasn't getting enough rest and that aggravated the pain. At the Whisky Nallah, my oxygen level went down to 65, but there were no symptoms of high-altitude sickness."

He adds, "It was fun to cycle through the ghats which are 8 to 10 times higher than the ones in Goa. Here, we are triumphant after riding up 700 to 800 meters above sea level. But crossing Rohtang Pass, Baralacha La pass (4800 mts), Nakee La Pass (4740 mts), Lachungla La Pass (5079 mts), Taglang La Pass (5328 mts), a journey of around 475 kms from Manali took a lot of effort, but was worth doing."

Retired hurt, but not out

Sangam, who was the first to abort the ride, is unfazed. "Though I had to abandon the ride, it was a lifetime experience in which your mind and body are put to test. I will be attempting the same ride next year."

With both his friends down and out of the conquest, which they had been planning for more than two years, Flavian pursued on and gradually reached the Khardungla pass on July 19 after covering a distance of more than 550 kilometres.

He recalls the hardest part of his ride was reaching Taglang La and Khardungla top. He started suffering a mild headache while climbing uphill due to the lack of oxygen at that height. However, he was relieved to see the pain become less as he started cycling downhill.

(From L to R) Sangam Patil, Sanket Naik and Flavian Sutari on their epic ride.
Know cycling clubs near you

Training for the big part

So how did he train for this ride? Flavian narrates, "Around three to four times in a week, I used to do 15 repeats of the Devote hill in Loutolim. The uphill is one kilometre and the elevation gain is 90 metres, which means in 15 repeats I achieved an elevation gain of 1350 metres."

Flavian says the best part of his journey was that the entire ride uphill was unsupported, which means he had no support car following him with all his cycling-related requirements.

A supported cyclist is always followed by a support car, which has a crew that monitors the cyclist and never leaves him out of sight. The unsupported rider is the one who goes on a wild adventure and faces challenges like a tyre puncture and breakdown all by himself.

Flavian's epic endurance ride may have not entered any record books, but he is certainly among one of the first Goan cyclists to ride up to Khardungla pass without any support.

Flavian at the Rohtang pass.
Flavian at the Rohtang pass.

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