Rao, better known as Venkateshwara Rao Mannava, clinched the 5th place in the recently ended #TOGO817 km challenge. The Elite Finisher clocked more than 2517km to win a water bag worth $80-100. Hand held in a firm grip with Evan the prize-giver, he gave a huge smile as he received his certificate and gift.

The 38-year old IT programmer hails from India and has made Singapore his second home for 7 years. Quite impressive is the fact that he cycles to work every day and then heads to Chinatown for dinner – on an old Aleoca mountain bike purchased from NTUC Fairprice for around $60. Covering about 55-60km every day to work and back, he clocks 1400-1500km each month. Soon after, a friend who knew of his little feats invited Rao to join #TOGO817. The cyclist happily accepted.

#TOGO817 Finisher Jersey Collection Day – Rao, 5th ranker.

What’s significant is, #TOGO817 is his first challenge! Out of 51 days of cycling, he clocked over 100km each day on 42 days – meeting his personal goal of cycling 100+ km a day. Those 9 days he did not meet his personal mileage, the weather was either unkind, or he’d met with wheel problems such as punctured tyres. Understandably, his Aleoca is a cheap bike; this adds to the impressiveness of his 5th position, fulfilling an old adage that “a pro delivers regardless of the standard of the medium”. The medium in this case, is his old Aleoca bicycle partially rusted with age. Of course, the condition and components of the bike matters. What makes him stand out in this case is he took the terrains regardless of the make of his bike.

Asked about his other hobbies besides cycling, Rao confesses, “Agriculture.”

I looked at the guy and asked “Serious?”. The Indian national smiled and said something about natural farming – covering the soil with mulch and and letting the plants be self-sufficient. Quite a metaphor for a cyclist coming all the way from India to cycle here. Well, not literally; he did it because of work. (I mentally drew a tri-gram of IT-cycling-agriculture, attempting once and for all to divine the aura of the man sitting serenely in front of me)

On the topic of self-sufficiency, Rao explains what he loves so much about cycling: peace, solitude, space for contemplation besides the quietly gorgeous scenery (the Lor Halus waterway is especially poignant with its sunsets). On this a silent bond was formed between two riders: the subtle nod on all these passed from one knowing head to another as both pursue sunsets on different locations.

Ā “Cycling, I can’t explain, gives me a lot of peace when riding alone, and time to contemplate on things. It’s a special feeling which I can’t express in words.” says Rao.


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