Have you met Arya the randonneur?

Actor Arya cycling down East Coast Road in a 200-km brevet organised by Madras Randonneurs on September 11 to commemorate the first 200-km brevet conducted by Audax Club Parisien in France on that day in 1921. Photo: Special Arrangement   

Madras Randonneurs urged its members to keep September 11 free for a special ride. It would celebrate the first ever brevet des randonneurs mondiaux (BRM) organised 100 years ago to that day, by Audax Club Parisien on a 200-km loop route on French soil.

Two hundred and eighty members of Madras Randonneurs kept the date free and did the commemorative 200-km ride down Chennai’s East Coast Road. Actor Arya was one of them. As a Super Randonneur — an enviable feat by itself — Arya has made it to the prestigious 1200-km Paris-Brest-Paris (PBP) ride. Talk to him about randonneuriing and his words would radiate an immense commitment to the endurance cycling sport. The star-actor explains why he randonneurs and what randonneuring has done for him.

How does one prepare to be a randonneur?

Randonneuring is quite different from normal fitness cycling, calling for a different mindset altogether. You definitely need a lot of training for randonneuring, but not any special training. More than the training it is the mind that drives you to the finish line. Basically, it is about pushing your limits and time management. Every brevet — 200 km, 300 km, 400 km, 600 km, 1000 km — is time-bound, requiring you to finish the specific target in the specific time as you follow the route. Suppose you do a 400 km ride, you will have to ride the bike for a minimum of 22 to 24 hours, so there is no sleep, no reserved pitstop or stop time, and there is no telling when and where you would be left with a flat tyre or run into bike problems or where you will get your food from. Basically, you get on the bike and prepare for the worst. When you do a 600 km, it is like a two-day ride and you rest whenever you get the time and wherever you get some shade. Sometimes you sleep under a tree; sometimes, at a bus stand. Sometimes, you will have a flat tyre in the middle of nowhere. So, it is like a mind game and pushing your human limits. When I did 1200 PBP, I was riding for three to four days with a maximum of five hours of sleep. On the third or fourth day, you would basically be hallucinating.

When the going gets tough, do you wish you were anywhere but on the road?

If you ask the question: Why should I do this? Then, there is no answer to it. As you sit on the bike, there are questions that you ask yourself. Nobody is forcing you to do this, and then why are you doing this? Let us stop this now, get back home and go to sleep. You break your mind each time till you reach the finish line. The happiness you get when you sail over the finish line is indefinable. The start line is new every time. You might have done 1000 kilometres before, and the next ride, you do a 300 and you will find some level of difficulty. Every BRM is an experience by itself. It will have its own challenges.

When did it all begin?

In started in 2017. The first ride was a 300 km in Sweden at Vätternrundan, an annual event that is more than 100 years old. The ride is organised around a lake. That is how I got hooked on to it — In Chennai, I started doing BRMs. Initially skeptical about the arrangements, I came to be impressed with the experience. The weather conditions are challenging. And Partha and team at Madras Randonneurs organise the route and everything well. The rides are well-supported at all the control points with safety being a priority. Now, endurance cycling has become an addiction.

Has being a star ever helped you while you were stuck on account of a problem encountered on the way?

When you are recognised, it becomes a problem because you waste a lot of time, talking to them, trying to take pictures and you will not be able to rest; nor would you be able to save some time. I just pray that I do not get recognised, but I do not stop myself from going to the tea shops for a cup of tea or coffee. You cannot find all the big restaurants on the way, when you are riding 600 km cutting through villages. In fact, we specifically eat in very small joints so that the food will be served very fast and we can get back on the road quickly. We pick small restaurants that are not crowded.

Any big ride on the cards?

We are looking forward to a 1500-km ride in the United Kingdom that is happening in August next year. We are actually training for it now, and hopefully by next August, we are ready to face it.

Seeing your example, has any of your friends in the film industry taken to randonneuring?

They all come for general rides. Randonneuring is madness, not fitness. It is like pushing human limits, more like extreme sports. However, when you go for Paris-Brest-Paris and other events abroad, you realise you are the youngest. There are participants who are 75 and 80 years old. So, it is not the age. We have randonneurs here in Chennai who are seventy plus. It is like an addictive madness that gets into you.

How has randonneuring enriched your life?

It has really helped in many ways in my career and life. Life is all about facing challenges and overcoming them. I would say that you should do BRMs, because it would give you enough confidence to take on challenges off the track. It trains you to work hard, set your goals — BRM motivates you. Not just BRMs, even a half-marathon or full marathon can do that for you. After 20 kilometres, it is not your legs, but your mind that takes you to the finish line. It is like meditation — after a point of time, it is just your mind.

In Chennai, where do you train?

I stay in Anna Nagar — either I do Tambaram bypass or Outer Ring Road. Or, the ECR. If I am doing short rides, there is the Marina Loop Road. It has all kinds of wind directions. We do all kinds of loops out there. It is very good for training, fast training. We go at 4.30 or 5 a.m.

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Printable version | Oct 17, 2021 3:19:46 AM |

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