The 472-km road from Leh to Manali is considered a challenge even for motorists and truck drivers because of the altitude gain and a mercurial weather. Army officer Lt Col Bharat Pannu traversed the route - one of the highest motorable stretches in the world - in 35 hours and 25 minutes on bicycle two days ago. He is now hoping to enter the record books.
Pannu started from Leh on Saturday morning and reached Manali on Sunday night. "The 50-km climb to Tanglang La (5,328 mtrs from sea level) was a killing one, but the sunset over the pass was beautiful. At night, temperature dropped to -12 degrees Celsius," Col Pannu told PTI on the phone from Chandigarh.
According to him, no official speed records were maintained for cyclists on the route, but some cyclists had finished the distance in 49 hours. To set a world speed record was his aim, and officials at Guinness Book had said he should finish within 40 hours.
He would now submit the data of his ride for an entry in the record book, said the 37-year-old Col Pannu. During the ride, he climbed five high-altitude passes. There was a hard layer of ice on the road in some places.
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In some stretches, the condition of the road was poor, he said. He used a thin-tyred 'road bike' which is meant for racing, and it skidded many times on ice, Col Pannu said. He had a crew of eight people supporting him in two cars through the journey, and spent a total of only 90 minutes off the saddle, mostly for changing clothes as per the weather's requirement.
The diet was mostly liquid. Atal Tunnel which was inaugurated a few days ago would have made his ride easier, but on the advice of Guinness Book officials he skirted it and instead climbed the Rohtang Pass.
This is another success for him after a podium finish at the virtual edition of the grueling Race Across America in July. But he has little time for rest as he will embark on a 6,000-km ride across the Golden Quadrilateral (Delhi-Kolkata- Chennai-Mumbai-Delhi) on Thursday morning, eyeing another world record by finishing it in over 13 days.