This article was originally published here – Chaitanya Velhal writes about Prashant Tidke
Whoever invented the words impossible, quitting, giving up, etc has clearly not met Prashant “the Missile” Tidke. What he did on the 22nd of February is a feat you don’t get to see every day. I was one of the three lucky crew members to be with him when he did this. It’s overwhelming to see ordinary humans doing extra ordinary things. You read it right; he is still just a human being. I have known him for just two years now and I’m already writing about him. This is the story of a man overcoming great pain with his sheer will power to not just complete a race but also to compete in it. Unlike my usual tales from the saddle, this is a story from the car seat.
Prashant Tidke aka PT took up cycling fairly recently and has already accomplished so much. In his youth (which seems never ending) PT was a long distance runner, which I think set him up nicely as a cyclist. He’s a reigning champion of Pune, winning the PBCh two times in a row, he has won the Sabarmati cyclothon, rugged sahyadri to name a few. Anyways he’s hardly a man who needs introduction. I’ll just get started.
WEEK BEFORE THE RACE
The Deccan Cliffhanger is a 640 km cycle race from Pune to Goa. It was held for the first time on 22nd February by our favorite Divya Tate. I was personally planning to do this myself until a crash broke my wrist in January (I’ll be writing about it shortly). By the second week of February it was clear that I wasn’t going to race due to my cracked radius so I notified Divya that I’d be crewing. PT did not call me until one week before the race. Only when I put up a post on fb intending to crew for anyone; did he ask me to crew. Had little choice but to decline other requests as crewing for my LIFECYCLE RACING teammate was a priority (as ordered by Mr. Boss Nachiket Joshi). I was craving for some action since almost 2 months of fracture induced boredom, thus crewing looked awesome. I had to arrange for 2 other crew members and Sushil Dhende was my first choice to help with all the mechanicals and Rupesh Pate to help drive the car. I met PT on Monday the 17th to discuss our prep and make a checklist. It was then he told me that he would be going to Sinhagad on Thursday. I immediately thought it was a bad idea. I also told him not to do it. And we all know what happened on Thursday, he broke his 3rd and 4th ribs on his way down from Sinhagad. Everyone, including me thought that PT was out of the race. He got it checked and said the docs have cleared him and that he’s still going to do the race which I honestly at first thought was crazy. We all tried to put sense into him by talking him out of it. On Thursday afternoon he tells me that it’s hurting too much and he’s dropping out. I immediately called Divya and asked if I can crew for anyone else. So by Thursday night I finalize to crew for Gyanendra, a rider from Gujrat. Then on Friday morning PT calls me and says he’s going to go for it, come what may. Apparently it was Captain’s last minute advice telling him to race that made him do it. I couldn’t comprehend that, why would Cap would let him ride when he clearly isn’t fit enough. Setting my doubts aside I told PT that I’m 100% behind him and would support him and be ready for any eventuality. So on Friday afternoon me and Sushil start running everywhere to complete our checklist. I was preparing the car and all ride requirements till Friday midnight. Honestly I was stressed and cursing PT on why he had to break his ribs at the eleventh hour. Couldn’t even get any sleep that night nor did Sushil or PT himself.
After hardly an hour of sleep, I went to Sushil’s place at 4 am; pick him up and his cycle which served as a backup in case PT’s breaks down. Then picked up Rupesh, who as always is late (typical Pate). PT has already reached before us. We do the pre race formalities and at exactly 5.45 am we are off. I’ve been watching PT ride for two years now and it was clear that he wasn’t comfortable nor in his best shape. The early morning pace was way below par than his normal capacity. Many riders and their cars overtook us in the first 20-30 kilometers. It dint look good to see PT being overtaken. He dint look worried though. He said he’d catch everyone on the Pasarni climb (Mahableshwar) and he did just that exactly. It was a splendid sight to finally see him in his usual ‘high gear’ hammering style on the ghat. The promise of strawberries and cream at the top only increased his speed. He dropped everyone on that climb, even Kartik who was leading the men’s pack.
PT reached the control at 10.58 and moved straight onwards. We stopped at the top of the climb for PT’s strawberry break.
After that it was a great big downhill. On the way down we saw Hiren all battered, bruised and bloody. There was only one pothole on that downhill and Hiren was just unfortunate to fall because of it. His wounds looked real nasty, we couldn’t stop as PT was going fast and strong. The next section was a 30 km flat rolling terrain towards Satara. PT had slowed down to due to the heat of the afternoon sun. There were some sections where there was no road at all!! I gave him his first gel here, and boy it did wonders on him. By 1 pm we were outside Satara. We had raced ahead and arranged lunch for PT there. The lunch took about 20 minutes. He was overtaken by 2 riders at this point. After this he rode nonstop to Sai International Hotel to be second only to Shu, reaching there by 5.05 pm. He had covered 276 km in about 11 hours. At Sai, me and Sushil helped change his Kinesio taping to the ribs. It was apparent that he was in pain, without the relaxing effects of the tape (these tapes are very effective and I recommend for all the athletes out there).
The rider and the crew both refreshed themselves with chilled glass of lassi. We were on our way after half an hour break. Soon it was dark and PT still wasn’t showing any signs of slowing down, he was easily cruising at 25-30 kmph, but the toll of the broken bones and pain killers was showing as few riders overtook him in this section (from Sai to the next controle near Nipani at 354 km mark). We reached Nipani controle by about 2100 hours, so a total of 354 kms in 14.5 hours. To reach this controle the riders had to climb the Tawandi ghat, which has a easy gradient of 3-4% and a max elevation of just 700 m, but after riding against the headwinds in the flats after Kolhapur this climb can get pretty imposing especially in the dark of the night. It was my idea to make Sushil run alongside PT when he was looking down and tired. Sushil ran along with him till almost half way through the climb, seeing and talking with Sushil seemed to have done the trick. The next half of the climb was under the belt in no time.
PT had a quick nap at this control while the crew had their dinner. We pushed off from this point at about 2200 hours. At this point PT had fallen way behind the race leaders. It was here the ‘Bald and the Beautiful’ team caught up to him. The pain killers were starting to really screw up PT at this point. He was starting to have acidity issues which we managed to keep at bay using heaps of gelucil antacids.
The roads in Karnataka were just beautiful but lonely. After reaching Belgaon PT wanted to have a quick nap, but there were no dhabas so we made a roadside bed for him. On the way to Dharwad, there were many moments of fun when Divya overtook PT who was now struggling to maintain 25 kmph. It was on this stretch that PT caught up with Gyanendra and what followed was hilarious; when PT was overtaking Gyan he tried to talk to him, apparently he dint say anything to PT and ignored him. This enraged PT and he attacked Gyan till he dropped way behind him. When we got to speak to PT at Dharwad control he said “Tyane mala olakh dahikvli nahi, mhanun me tyala kadhla” (He ignored me, hence I attacked him). We couldn’t stop laughing in the car, but also we couldn’t help but admire the determination of this man. He just would’nt give up. By about 0500 hours next day he was pretty much drained out. I told him to get some more rest, so we all slept for about half an hour on the roadside. After this the ride for PT got worse. The painkillers did a number on him. He was suffering from extreme acidity and puking out every time we stopped. He couldn’t even hold down water. This slowed him down considerably, but we were still very much in time.
The rest of the ride till we reached outskirts of Goa was slow but beautiful. The jungles of Anshi were a refreshing change from the dull plains of the highway. However the progress was very slow due to some very bad roads. The descent into Goa provided breathtaking scenery along with much needed increase in pace. PT upon hearing that it was only 30 kms to the finish increased his speed. He soon caught up with other younger riders. The last 20 kms were very exciting to watch. PT kept attacking everyone on the climbs but got a bit slow on the flats. Every time we cheered him from the car he used to go a bit faster. It was nice to see him overtake Gyan, Hitendra Mahajan and even come close to Mahendra Mahajan. Although, they finished within minutes of each other. The finish provided a huge sense of achievement and I was so happy and overwhelmed I went yelling and hugged PT!! No one would have believed he would do it until he actually did it. He completed the last stretch through sheer will power and never quit attitude. Prashant Tidke you have earned my respect and admiration for a lifetime. Hope you keep on riding and motivate others to ride like you.
The overall crewing experience was amazing. Got to learn a lot, especially after the detailed conversations with Shusannah. Although the idea of sitting in car for 30 hours straight without sleep with 2 other grown men seems daunting; I will always cherish this experience. There were plenty of issues. Since the crew were tired and sleep deprived we had our own moments of disagreements. Thankfully these situations never got out of hand, which is possible only when you have the right people with you. To all the riders out there I’d like to tell you one thing, choosing the right crew is very important to your race, regardless of how strong you are. They have to be extremely patient, understanding and resourceful beyond limit.
I could not decide between the two titles, hence I put them both. Also I have to mention the help provided by Akash Koregonkar (Our go-to guy in Kolhapur) by helping us restocking our Redbulls and priority service at his petrol pump. Thanks a ton Akash. And as always I am very thankful to Nachiket Joshi for sponsoring us and Ashok Captain for teaching us everything we know about cycling.
Author – Chaitanya Velhal
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