By Chenelle Fernando
Race The Pearl is an ultra-endurance race set to take place on 13 and 14 September this year. The challenge connecting the two furthest points of Sri Lanka is a project grown over the years spun with nothing but passion. Yasas Hewage, the founding member of the race, stated: “We want to put Sri Lanka on the map to promote it as a place for people to come and ride bicycles. That’s from where the idea for Race The Pearl sprung – to take people on a journey to see the beauty of Sri Lanka in a different way.”
The proceeds of the race will be presented to the Wheels for Wheels foundation which donates wheelchairs to children suffering from cerebral palsy. Witnessing numerous high-endurance races taking place around the globe forces Sri Lanka forward in connecting with the global cycling community, making it a challenging pursuit.
The race has been structured differently to what was initially organised. It’s now made up of a 24-hour ultra-endurance race, a 48-hour race where people ride to Dambulla and stay the night only to continue the ride, and finally, a relay option where people can form groups of twos and fours.
This, we were informed, was a catalyst in multiplying female participation in the race. With Jetwing Hotels partnering with the project, participants will be able to encounter a heightened experience.
The core activity of the race remains to be none other than cycling – pushing one’s limits and boundaries. Participants look forward to the race hoping to feel a
sense of achievement while some do it for charity.
Team spirit, Yasas believes, would be the highlight of this ride and is set to witness the participation of around 30 this year.
The race is considered to be time efficient, as generally races such as these require a large allocation of one’s time.
“If you participate in the race on Thursday, you will be able to go back to work on Monday,” asserted Yasas. Participants interested in the race will be guided by professionals and obtain training, which could vary to a yearlong procedure, and according to Yasas, “if you’re unfit, I would say you would have to undergo a training of six months to one year, but with a lot of discipline. You have to set a goal that cannot be compromised”. The winning participants will also be able to earn the Race The Pearl jersey, a uniquely designed journey embodying the iconic Sri Lankan leopard and peacock.
Considering the length of 600 km covered by the race, participants will get a taste of Sri Lanka’s finest terrains, towns amassed with cultural value, and natural beauty. The race commences from the iconic location of Point Dondra located at the southernmost point of the country. This town with rich historical importance was primarily maintained as a port town during its moments as a popular pilgrimage destination. Dambulla being allocated as a race changeover is a major junction of the island. The township is inclusive of the great Dambulla Cave Temple which was declared a World Heritage Site in 1995. The race will conclude with its participants reaching Point Pedro, the northernmost tip of the island. Located in Jaffna, the city is believed to have concentrated within it the Indian influence and culture.
The race, Yasas believes, could be easily viewed as an excuse to witness the beauty of Sri Lankan landscapes which are likely to provide one with an incomparable sense of achievement. Considering the touristic point of view, it places Sri Lanka on the map alongside the great Americas and European nations. “Just like what Ironman did for Colombo, this targets a very different team of tourists who would do a race holiday to use as an excuse to come to Sri Lanka and spend time.”