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The bicycle wheels have given Geeta Rao wings to fly to greater heights

The bicycle wheels have given Geeta Rao wings to fly to greater heights

Imtiaz Azad

Published: 5 April 2019 4:44 AM GMT
If we minutely look around us, we might be able to find out many inspiring human narratives that are no less than a saga of sheer determination and mental strength. Geeta Rao's (40) story is one of such exemplary accounts that is moulded with the fervour of never giving up. She braved her disability to pursue extraordinary dreams. She stayed focussed in pursuing her goal and earned several medals on her way. Disaster had struck Geeta when she was just three years old. Following a couple of weeks of high fever, she was diagnosed with polio that had infected her entire body. Doctors had said she might never be able to walk. Almost three decades later, Geeta pedalled her way to register her name in the Limca Book of Records by becoming
India’s first differently-abled cyclist
to complete the Super Randonneur in December 2017, an unbelievable 1,500-kilometres in 43 days. Super Randonneur is the title earned by any rider who completes a series of brevets (200, 300, 400, and 600 KM) in one Audax Calendar Year. While recalling about her formative years, Geeta gives credit to her family for raising her similar to her siblings without giving her any special treatment. "I am glad that my parents didn't treat me differently which has made me independent today. They all wanted me to stand on my own feet and could everything on my own. It was my determination to pursue goals, which has taken me here,"
said Geeta to The Bridge. Due to her illness, Geeta could not ride a bicycle in her childhood. In February 2016, she was first introduced to cycling. She started practising on the bicycle gifted to her seven-year-old nephew. In her initial days, she couldn't even cycle for 200 metres. But she didn't let failure to come in her way. Within a week she managed to handle the cycle of her own and she completed her first cycling event, a 14-kilometre green ride at a cyclothon. "My parents never taught me to give up. So I voluntarily participated in general category cycling, not the specially abled one,"
said Geeta. Geeta has been a solo traveller in her journey. She picked up all the nitty gritty of cycling all by herself. She learnt to repair, changing wheels by watching online videos and reading books and articles. "There have been times when I was cycling alone, I would fall and hurt my legs and had many physical injuries and bruises. I took my time to recover, but made sure to come back stronger." A month after learning to cycle, in March 2016, Geeta rode 50 kilometres for the first time ever, which further fuelled her ambition to take up new challenges. On March 20, she rode 115 kilometres in her maiden competitive race – The Polo Impossible Road Race.
"This is the toughest elevated race in Gujarat with steep climbs and pretty difficult downhills. Within the first 25-kilometre stretch, I fell of dizziness and
felt unconscious. I screamed, I cried and I crawled but I did not give up and completed the 115-kilometre distance," said Geeta. By the time, she had completed the Polo Impossible Race she had already fallen in love with long-distance, solo cycling. Geeta decided to take on randonneuring, a long-distance cycling sport. She did her first 200-kilometre brevet on November 20, 2016, but could only finish 30 minutes later than the cut-off timings. There was no separate entry for differently-abled cyclists, resulting in a LF (Late Finish) ranking, and missing being a randonneur. However, she wasn't going to give up easily.
"I again attempted the 200-kilometre brevet on December 31 and finally became a
randonneur," said Geeta. She attempted the 300-kilometre brevet in July 2017, which resulted in a DNF (Did Not Finish). She tried again in September and this time completed it within the desired time limit. Gradually, she finished the 400-kilometre brevets. However, on completing her 600-kilometre brevet, she found she was 15 minutes late, and thus, she missed the ‘Super Randonneur’ title in October.  Despite missing the title, she became the first female of Ahmedabad who completed 300 KM, 400KM & 600KM of Brevets and first such differently-abled female of India. She sustained multiple injuries after the 600-km brevet which didn't allow her to ride for the next 40 days. After recovering, she started riding in the 300-kilometre brevet in November and completed the entire SR series rides in a matter of just 43 days. This feat extraordinaire earned her the title of being India’s first differently-abled ‘Super Randonneur.’

Geeta, who knew all the technical aspects of cycling, says she owes a lot to the brand, Fast&Up India which offers products that caters all the nutritional needs of athletes.

"While riding the bicycle, I came across many athletes. I knew quite well about the technical aspect of my game. People advised me to try some special nutritional requirement for athletes apart from the regular home-cooked food I had. I started using Fast&Up products for their nutritional values. I used their products during my training as well as my cycling days. I found it suits my body pretty well. The products have been beneficial in my journey," said Geeta. Geeta is presently preparing to participate in one of her dream long-distance cycling event – The Paris Brest Paris (PBP-1200KM), a quadrennial event held in France. This year the event will take place in August. Geeta harbours the dream to represent India at the 2020 Paralympics in Japan. She said, "My ultimate goal is representing India in the Paralympics games. I am actively looking for sponsorship." The wheels have given wings to Geeta and every passing year; she aims to fly to greater heights.
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