For a sportsperson, the pain of not being able to play far exceeds that of the injury that causes it. At least, that was the case for UK cyclist Vilas Silverton.
The 50-year-old, who’s in the country for an epic 5,500-km cycling journey from Perth to Sydney along with several other international cyclists, excelled at home in traditional cycling races and was a divisional champ for the last three years. Until one fateful day, when a back injury meant he could no longer perform his favourite sport, cyclocross, a form of extreme cycling in which riders carry their bikes through un-rideable terrain and mud.
So, what prompted Vilas in cycling hundreds of kilometres a day for up to 18 hours a day? “I saw some multi-day runners whilst volunteering at a race and saw the energy emanating from them, and wanted it myself. I’m no runner, so I decided to cycle longer distances,” he explains.
Moreover, long distance cycling involves easier gears and doesn’t cause as much strain on the back.
The cyclists left Perth mid-March. “I was at the start. The atmosphere was really charged with hundreds of spectators cheering. There are a lot of Indians in the event too (one got knocked off his bike by a kangaroo along the Nullabor Plain!) Originally, they were to take part in the Indian Pacific Wheel Race,” says Vilas.
“Unfortunately, the race was cancelled due to a coronial investigation into the 2017 race after a vehicle collided with a runner. But many cyclists had already booked their tickets and in any case, the race was going to be unassisted. So, people still decided to take part,” he adds.
Vilas was disappointed about the cancellation too, but only momentarily. “I questioned my reasons for doing it. The whole point of doing it was for self-transcendence and that hadn’t changed, so I thought I’ll do it anyway,” says Vilas, who cycles with the Sri Chinmoy Cycling Team and uses his philosophy of self-transcendence to continually improve himself.
The cyclist adds that there was not a soul from media or otherwise to watch Aussie cyclist Abdullah Zeinab cross the finish line. But that is not what the event is about. “I guess we all have our own reasons for doing it,” says Vilas. “For me, the spiritual vastness of this country is really special and I will be out there experiencing nature.”
Currently, Vilas is approaching Mount Kozscuisko.