Riding with the Trailblazer – Parashuram Chenji

  RITZ caught up with Parashuram Chenji to know more on his journey down the road.

Tapping into the joy of cycling and turning a hobby into a smart way of conveyance has now become a global trend. Taking the competitive sport a notch higher is Parashuram Chenji with his Silver Medal at the 21st National Road Cycling Championship. Being the first cyclist from Telangana to win a medal at this level, RITZ caught up with Parashuram Chenji to know more on his journey down the road.

Parashuram Chenji – the cycling champion, now a name well-known. Tell us more about yourself.

 The way this question is framed gives me a celebrity vibe, wow! I’m just another 23-year old. I’m the kind of guy that enjoys whatever life throws at me, and I consider myself lucky to find happiness and humour in the smallest of things. I used to work at a corporate job which I absolutely loved, but gave it up when I realised that my love for cycling overshadowed it.

So right now, I would call myself a full-time cyclist and a part-time freelancer. It’s important to have enough money coming through at all times, but it’s even more important that you don’t kill yourself for it. I am taking up any interesting job that comes my way from content writing to helping out a friend with a business that he’s started; even this small modelling assignment recently! I just feel that I have got weird and varied ambitions in life.

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 How much and what kind of training went into the sport before you took part in the 21st National Road Cycling Championship?

 I began serious training exactly 1 year and 7 months back and that was when my dad thought he saw some talent in me. I began training with 2 senior national level cyclists, and a coach who was the best cyclist in India for ten years at a stretch.  And that is what gave my riding the huge boost it needed to develop from being a local amateur to a National Competitor.

My training schedule runs through 6 days a week with a monitored diet, while simultaneously giving my body enough rest for the muscles to recover. The training that gave me an edge over my competitors though, has got to be the 2 months that I spent racing and training in Belgium – the motherland for wannabe professional cyclists. Belgium has the world’s best bike racing culture and riders from all over the world who wish to up their game spend at least a season over there. Training for the sport is definitely a tough ride with days where you go out for recovery rides to make sure you don’t push your body over the edge; most other days involve taking your body to the limit and further with short bursts of speed and long fast rides.

 Did you always plan the journey down this road? Who motivated or inspired you?

 Not at all. I had no idea that I would be going down this path. It started with riding because of pure enjoyment and then gradually I began training as I saw scope for bigger things ahead. And now I’m continuing because the goals that I see have become so much more achievable, the scope has broadened, and the enjoyment factor just increases along with the level that I’m competing at.

I fell in love with cycling without much outside influence simply because I enjoyed the feeling of freedom on the bicycle. But in terms of motivation and inspiration to continue moving up the ladder, my dad, Arvind Chenji has been the person who made all the difference. He believes in me 100%, and has supported me all along the journey. He’s gone out of his way to make sure I get the right kind of training, equipment and nutrition. He also gives the best pep talk whenever I feel like I’m stagnating with training, or whenever a race doesn’t go too well for me. In fact my dad is the person who started the team that I race for, Hyderabad Racing League (HRL). He is also working towards increasing the scope of cycle racing across Telangana, and has helped many riders from Hyderabad progress on their journey as cyclists.

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 We do not hear much about cycling as a sport in India. Comment.

As a sport, cycling is not very common even in Hyderabad. Its popularity has increased exponentially over the past 2 years, but is still not as popular as it is in Karnataka, Punjab, and Haryana. One of dad’s main goals is to change that for India. He has always believed that if any rider from team HRL wins a medal at the nationals, it will change the face of cycling in the city. And now that I’m lucky enough to be that rider, I feel that things are going to change. We are going to have a more organised racing calendar to source out new talent, and also work towards providing better training to develop existing riders.

 What do you think is the biggest challenge in the sport and how do you overcome it?

There are a few challenges that we face in the sport right now, let me list them out:

Physical: You need to make up your mind to get out of bed and get pedalling. And when you’re on the bike, it needs to hurt. If it doesn’t hurt, you’re not going hard enough. Cycling is considered to be the world’s toughest sport, and it requires a lot of effort.

Financial: Cycling is also an expensive sport. To be competing at the national level, you cannot compromise on the equipment. My cycle costs Rs 2 Lakhs, and it’s still not the best bike in the peloton. Cyclists abroad use expensive equipment (power meters, heart rate monitors and the works) to judge the quality of their training. Since we lack sponsors in India, it’s tough to lay our hands on such equipment, which costs anywhere between twenty and fifty thousand rupees. Apart from fixed costs, there are recurring expenses as well. Proper nutrition costs me around Rs 4000 per month and a regular requirement for cycling spares such as tires, tubes and accessories could range anywhere between Rs 1000 and Rs 10000 per month.

Mental: There are periods in time when you feel like you’re not really progressing. There are races where you just cannot keep up to your opponents’ pace. There are instances when you wonder whether you’re really cut out for the sport at all. All these negative thoughts need to be pushed away, and you need to reassure yourself that you’re doing things right, and if not now, the results will come soon for sure.

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Breaking the long spell and winning the first silver medal for Telangana… plans of gold in the pipeline?

 Oh my! I missed out on the Gold by a really small margin this time, and could have won it had I planned my ride nutrition better. I feel terrible when I think of the missed opportunity. So yes, I want to set things right going forward. I’m looking to win that elusive first gold medal, and eagerly await all the upcoming national level races to win it.

 Winning laurels at a young age… any message for all the cycling enthusiasts out there?

 The key is to enjoy the journey. I started riding solely because I enjoyed it so much. It takes baby steps to reach greater levels, and I had to go through each of them. It’s important to have a long-term goal as well as many short-term goals. But what’s more important is to enjoy riding. As long as you enjoy what you’re doing and have a vision at the same time, things always work out.