Love in motion: Lucknow rider dedicates PBP 2023 medal to late wife
When tragedy struck, Amrita and Prabhat were attempting a Guinness World Record and riding from Lucknow to Mumbai under the accreditation of the World Ultra Cycling Association (WUCA) to become the first married couple in South-Asia to do 2,000 km in 168 hours
In August 2019, Prabhat Ranjan Prasad, 41, and his wife Amrita Ranjan, 37 were unsuccessful while attempting the gruelling Paris-Brest-Paris (PBP) 1,200 km international ultra-cycling event in France.
Four years later, on August 24, this year, at 9.15 pm Prabhat, now 45, completed the PBP--’alone’ and dedicated the ride and the medal to his late wife Amrita Ranjan, who died on the night of November 16, 2021, on the Jaipur-Ajmer highway in Rajasthan, when a truck ran over her.
When tragedy struck, Amrita and Prabhat were attempting a Guinness World Record and riding from Lucknow to Mumbai under the accreditation of the World Ultra Cycling Association (WUCA) to become the first married couple in South-Asia to do 2,000 km in 168 hours.
“She always dreamt that we do PBP successfully. I fulfilled it--alone”, said Prabhat.
Amrita was an assistant professor in computer science at a private engineering college in Lucknow while Prabhat is a mechanical engineer working with an Indian automobile giant.
Prabhat returned to Lucknow with Amrita’s mortal remains, cremated her, and vowed never to ride again.
The couple from Lucknow, had several cycling achievements in their name including ‘The fastest 1,200 km married couple on cycle in India’ recorded in the India Book of Records for the ride they did in November 2019 within months of the failed PBP attempt.
“The vow I took was only natural for not only was I scared of riding on the roads with traffic, but now I was a single parent to two boys--15 years and 11 years of age and also an elderly father to take care of”, said Prabhat. He abandoned his bicycle.
“I was riding barely three meters away when the truck hit her. I will never be able to recover fully from the tragedy. But then, I realised that doing the PBB and 1,540 LEL (London-Edinburgh-London) ride and several more was her dream. So, I decided to start riding again, despite objections from my family”, said Prabhat.
Last year, Prabhat began to prepare for the PBP 2023. To qualify, an aspirant must complete a prescribed long-distance endurance cycling before. “In October 2022, I signed up for the 600 km ride--between Lucknow-Gorakhapur-Lucknow, but was scared. Then a friend and fellow cyclist volunteered to give me cover on the road by riding an SUV right behind to shield me from traffic”, said Prabhat. He qualified.
Prabhat reached Paris by air with his bicycle on August 7. Nearly 5,000 cyclists from all over the world had gathered for the PBP 2023.
“At 6 pm on August 20, my ride began and I finished at 9.30 pm on August 24. There were many moments when it was almost certain that I would fail again”, said Prabhat.
“Soon after the start, while negotiating a speed-breaker, I got off-balance and fell on the road. After a first aid, I resumed”, he said.
“The next day, one of my tyres burst. I repaired it and resumed the ride. Then, on the intervening night of August 22 and 23, the bicycle’s chain broke. I walked to the nearest control point but to my dismay, there was no staff at the cycle repair kiosk. Then someone managed to reach out to the in-charge of the centre, he was a bit reluctant if attending to my bike. In desperation, I took out a poster of Amrita from my pocket and tried to tell them why it was important for me to finish the ride. Not only did they change the chain, but overhauled the cycle quickly”, he said.
Also, in between, Prabhat developed a severe saddle sore. “A French family noticed the agonising pain I was in and asked me to rest at their home. I slept there for two hours, ate, and had a hot water bath, and resumed”, he said.
Finally, when I was barely five km from the finishing point, the headlight mounted on the handlebars conked off. Again, a French citizen came to help. A woman passing by in her car offered to give me beams of her car’s headlights by riding behind me.
Now, Prabhat’s PBP medal garlands Amrita’s portrait.