SOJOURN SPANNING EIGHT COUNTRIES:Meet the three cyclists headed to Tokyo for the Olympics to cheer for India

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BHUBANESWAR: Haseeb Ahsan, Cliffin Francis and Dona Jacob are more than a month into their 10,000 kilometer cycling trip to Tokyo. Riding though Odisha at the moment en route Kolkata, the trio will be riding into Bangladesh around February 20.

The main objective of the eight-month long trip is to cheer for the Indian team at the Tokyo Olympics. With Bergamont bikes as their only mode of transportation, the three riders from Kerala hope to make it to the Olympics village in time by mid-July. The Olympics are set to be held between July 24 and August 9, 2020.

Referring to the ‘12th man’ effect in football and the role of the supporters in sports, Haseeb feels it is important to let the team know that there are people who are supporting, rooting or cheering for them.

Both Cliffin and Dona are seasoned cyclists. Cliffin, a freelance teacher had made headlines in 2018 for cycling from Dubai to Moscow to attend the Football World Cup.

The three of them say that one of the real paybacks lie in less of cycling and more of experiencing the world at close quarters and meeting people along the way. “Cycling is one of the ways to see the world properly. Since you pass through so many villages, you get to see the way of living or their culture up close. You are going through every place slowly so you also get to understand how the cultivation changes from region to region as well,” said Dona.

“You can see how the weather changes. For example, when you cross the Eastern Ghats, it starts getting colder. Gives you an idea of what crops grow at different regions based on the climate,” added Haseeb.

Cliffin says the journey till Odisha has been nice as they got to see each state really well. In India, Cliffin had just cycled in his home state before taking up this trip.

Apart from the similarity of having fish with meals in the cuisines of both Kerala and Odisha, the riders noticed that the locals often ask if they’ve had food. “We’d be cycling, people will pass us and ask if we have food. You get so much love from people, it feels good,” says Dona.

Both Haseeb and Dona quit their jobs for the eight-country spanning trip. Dona says while her parents were initially concerned about her security, her mom was supportive of her going for it later on.

While an extremely long journey awaits the three, the group regularly updates stories from their adventure on their Instagram handle @snails.on.wheels. After crossing into Bangladesh, they will be back to India via Meghalaya, Mizoram, then to Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Shanghai and then Japan. Cliffin says they take it one day or one week at a time and try to enjoy the overall experience of it.

Nivedita Nayak,OP

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