Amit Samarth (This photo, taken at an earlier stage of the race, was downloaded from the Facebook page of Amit Samarth)

The first Indian finish at Trans-Siberian Extreme has become a reality. Not just that – it has been accomplished in the first attempt.

Amit Samarth has successfully completed the 2018 Red Bull Trans-Siberian Extreme.

He ranked fourth overall.

The race concluded in Vladivostok today (Friday, August 17).

“ It’s done,” Amit messaged those following the race in India.

The overall winner of the 2018 edition of the race was Pierre Bischoff of Germany.

Initial flush of race data showed that he completed stage 15 – the last stage – in 26 hours, 37 minutes, 52 seconds. Overall he took 315 hours, 45 minutes and 26 seconds to reach the finish line. Bischoff had previously won Race Across America (RAAM) in 2016; he was also ultra-cycling’s world champion in 2017.

At the just concluded race in Russia, Michael Knudsen of Denmark placed second (26:43:55 for stage 15 / 333:13:04 overall) while Marcelo Florentino Soares of Brazil took the third spot (26:51:56 / 346:19:00).

Amit finished stage 15 in fifth place. He took 32 hours, 35 minutes and 27 seconds to finish the stage; overall he took 379 hours, 51 minutes and 44 seconds.

The 2018 Trans-Siberian Extreme began on July 24 in Moscow, roughly 9100 kilometers away to the west. The race route was along the southern portion of Russia, eventually climbing north in the country’s east and then dropping south again into Primorsky Krai where Vladivostok is.

There were six racers in the fray at start.

Russian cyclist Vladimir Gusev wasn’t there for the fifteenth stage as he had a DNF (Did Not Finish) for the third time in the event in stage 14, exceeding the permitted numbers of DNF. Earlier in stage 13 – the longest and perhaps the toughest of the race – Patricio Doucet of Spain had also ended up DNF.

Retirement in two stages is permitted under race regulations. However, post the first DNF, the cyclist in question continues in a minor classification and not the main race.

DNF by Vladimir and Patricio reduced the overall competitive field to four cyclists.

Amit is the first Indian to participate in Trans-Siberian Extreme and complete it. He is also the first Indian cyclist to complete Trans-Siberian Extreme and RAAM (Amit finished it in 2017) in the very first attempt. Trans-Siberian Extreme is nearly double the length of RAAM. Late Friday night, the race organizers confirmed to this blog that Amit is also the first Asian to complete Trans-Siberian Extreme.

In a conversation with this blog ahead of Trans-Siberian Extreme, Amit had mentioned that distances beyond the length of RAAM would be new experience for him.

To his credit, Amit had no DNF.

He finished every stage of Trans-Siberian Extreme within cut-off and was there to attempt the next.

Amit (right) with support crew; in the middle Devnath Pillai and Chetan Thatte (This photo, taken at an earlier stage of the race, was downloaded from the Facebook page of Amit Samarth)

He does not seem to have chased a podium finish in any stage. Instead, he seems to have foreseen the effort of tackling 9100 kilometers in advance and hung in there determinedly, typically finishing each stage in the fifth or sixth slot. Assuming that was the strategy, it seems to have paid off for not only has he completed the race, but at some points of the last stage (according to conversation among his well-wishers), he was also zipping along at an average speed of close to 27 kilometers per hour.

Amit, who is a doctor by profession and a cyclist and triathlete to boot, hails from Nagpur. He had a two-person support crew for the entire race – Devnath Pillai and Chetan Thatte. Towards the concluding stages, Nagpur based industrialist and well-wisher of Amit, Jeetendra Nayak (and his wife Renuka), also flew to Russia to support and cheer the cyclist’s progress.

For more on Amit Samarth please click on this link: https://shyamgopan.com/2018/06/26/the-unusual-doctor/

(The author, Shyam G Menon, is a freelance journalist based in Mumbai.)

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