Indian Army officer Lt Gen Anil Puri has become the first serving general to complete France's oldest cycling event, the gruelling 1,200-km Paris-Brest-Paris circuit.
Lt Gen Puri, 56, completed the circuit on Thursday by cycling non-stop for around 90 hours from Rambouillet on the outskirts of Paris to the Brest military port on France's western tip and back. Of the 367 participants from India, only around 80 could successfully complete the arduous trek while the rest dropped out midway.
There were a total of 6,500 participants at the event from as many as 60 countries.
The gruelling nature of the cycling event can be gauged from the fact that a participant has to climb a cumulative altitude of around 31,000 feet during the circuit - equivalent to conquering Mt Everest - without any sleep in nearly four days.
Lt Gen Puri was among six army personnel from India who had secured berths at the event for having completed at least one 1,000-km non-stop cycling event during their respective careers.
Speaking to IANS from Paris after completing the circuit, Lt Gen Puri said the experience was very humbling apart from the excitement it provided.
"The human mind is a very beautiful machine that needs to be kept excited. This excitement comes from change. We need to change our interests and hobbies in the physical and electronic domains every three to five years in order to stimulate our minds. The whole experience of the event was humbling because it teaches you that nature can never be conquered," he said.
The participants had to bear extreme weather conditions with temperatures ranging between 35 to 3 degrees centigrade at different points during the ride. In addition, headwinds in either direction continuously kept challenging the physical endurance of the participants.
"As Indians, we don't get to cycle on hilly terrain. Our cities are mostly flat. Hence, we get tired easily because of poor muscular development," said Lt Gen Puri.