Health

Saturday 23 August 2014

India adds some spice to the race as I hit the front

Breifne in India

I had been warned about so many aspects of Indian life – the traffic, the pollution and the security threats were just a few things I'd been given notes on by friends and family.

The Indian native competing in the World Cycle Race, Prasad, has been stranded in India for some time now with issues getting visas for the European countries he wishes to navigate through.

With the leader, Lee, having been disqualified for taking a taxi for 200k into Calcutta and not returning to his end point to restart his ride, Prasad had been a few hundred kilometres ahead of me at the front of the race when I touched down in Mumbai.

I was met at the airport by Prasad and two of his friends, who spent four days helping me to get some way down the west coast of India; ironically passing his completed distance and taking the lead in the race in the process.

I wrote some time ago in this column about the old tale of the Tortoise and the Hare and while there is a long, long way to go in this event – another 25,000k in fact – despite my issues with injury from the crash in Hungary, this tortoise now holds the lead in the race.

With regard to the warnings I got before arriving in the Indian sub-continent they couldn't have been more wrong. The people have been so friendly here and have dispelled most of the rumours I had heard

On the roads the encourage- ment from the drivers, pedestrians and motorbike riders has been the best I've received so far. Every food stop has resulted in numerous questions and probes about my endeavours and destinations.

Prasad and his friends and family could not have been more accommodating either. Welcoming me to their home and having Prasad's company on the road has been a godsend.

Being able to see his face staring back at me from the back of his own support vehicle a few hundred metres down the road has helped me to keep the wheels turning and make good progress.

Although the welcome has been fantastic, it has probably slowed my progress a little. I can't get used to the pace and let Prasad pass me!

Traffic is a little nuts, with any real form of rules and regulations on the road completely absent, but all the traffic moves at little more than pedestrian pace so it works even though it's exceptionally difficult to understand at times.

Road signs and traffic lights are largely ignored and whoever gets their nose in front or blows their horn more often takes right of way.

Honestly, the smell and pollution parts are true, but you kind of become get used to it and become immune to that after 48 hours or so. The rivers, covered in green sludge and looking particularly dirty, do take some getting used to – but I'd take India ahead of Turkey or Bulgaria for safety on the roads any day.

While everything is going well with Pedal The Planet, and my dream of becoming world champion is very much alive, I am disappointed to be missing out one of the best events I've ever had the pleasure of being involved with in Cycle Against Suicide.

It's not too late to get involved and join the Orange Army for all or part of the fortnight around the entire country.

Just check out their website for dates and locations between April 29 and May 12. I'm proud to be wearing their logo on my jersey and to be an ambassador for this fantastic organisation.

If cycling isn't your thing, but you want to get involved, they are looking for volunteers to offer home stays to their cyclists.

  • Breifne is taking part in the World Cycle Race. See www.pedalthe planet.tv

Irish Independent

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