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Pedalling ahead

UNSTOPPABLE: Ramalingam Rajipillai

UNSTOPPABLE: Ramalingam Rajipillai   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Multi Grand Super Randonneur, Ramalingam Rajipillai, talks about the challenges and pleasures of pursuing endurance cycling at 66

MADURAI: For 66-year-old Ramalingam Rajipillai, life has come full circle. There was a time when as a young man in the Madras of the 60s, Rajipillai rode a cycle to work everyday. And now, he cycles hundreds of kilometres between cities across tough terrains, pushing himself to complete some of the toughest endurance cycling events. Three years ago, he was gifted a hybrid cycle by his son-in-law. Today, the man holds multiple Super Randonneur titles.

“Recently, I developed pain in the thigh and the physiotherapist advised me to drop out of cycling, citing my age. But that failed to deter my spirit for sports. I gradually relieved myself of the pain and here I am, cycling all over the country,” says Rajipillai, who cycled 450 kms to Madurai all the way from Chennai, to attend Freedom Riders Unite.

A marathoner, Ramalingam has been following an active lifestyle throughout. “I was always into sports. Since I needed cross training for marathons, I chose cycling. And now, this has become my first love. I am more into cycling than running these days. I started off with 10 to 15 km a day and within a couple of months, I completed a 200 km BRM event. Successive events built my confidence levels and I went on to complete 600 kms within a year, bagging Grand Super Randonneur,” says Rajipillai, who rode from Kashmir to Kanyakumari in November 2016, as part of a 19-member team, covering 18 States in 22 days.

“I was the oldest in the team and managed to keep pace with the youngsters, sometimes even ahead of them. That propelled me to go for the Road Beast event covering 1000 km in 75 hours. I rode from Chennai to Vijayawada and back. In 2017, I signed up for the Road Harrier event and successfully rode 1200 km in 90 hours. I was fighting a stomach disorder, yet I pushed myself mentally and physically and my efforts thankfully paid off,” says the man who has become an inspiration for young and old alike in the cycling community across the country.

Adding another feather to his cap, Rajipillai also completed a Fleche, a team cycling event, riding from Chennai to Yercaud in 24 hours in the scorching summer temperature of 40C. “It was challenging, as it involved team coordination apart from riding stamina and skills,” he says. “My next target is the Deccan Cliffhanger, which is considered one of the toughest endurance cycling events in India. And it’s also the qualifying event for Race Across America, my dream event.”

Rajipillai says that a protein-rich diet and a good sleep are imperative for endurance cycling. “After such tough rides, depleted body proteins need to be rejuvenated.” “However, much of it is in the mind and determination is the key to finish events. I enjoy the pain that comes along with the sport and never complain.”

Rajipillai’s day starts at 3.30 am with stretching exercises, jogging and gymming. “My wife is my biggest support at home. Though she’s apprehensive of me riding on highways in the night, she motivates me to perform better each time. Cycling also gives me clarity of mind. Whenever I feel mentally disturbed, I go for a ride and get refreshed,” says the retired food technologist.

(The next article in this series will appear on June 30)

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Printable version | Apr 2, 2020 8:36:45 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/travel/multi-grand-super-randonneur-ramalingam-rajipillai-talks-about-the-challenges-and-pleasures-of-pursuing-endurance-cycling-at-66/article24229977.ece

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