Cyclothon success may open RadioShack doors for Indian riders

Success in the two-stage international Class I cycling race to be held in Nashik and Mumbai this week could be a major breakthrough for Indian cyclists.

Last Updated: Feb 09, 2011, 17:48 PM IST

Mumbai: Success in the two-stage international
Class I cycling race to be held in Nashik and Mumbai this week
could be a major breakthrough for Indian cyclists aspiring to
make it big on the world stage as US-based UCI Pro-Tour Team
RadioShack will be observing them with a keen eye.

"RadioShack is a team open to all nationalities. We have
29 riders from 17 nationalities. Why not an 18th one? For us,
it doesn`t matter where the riders come from as long as they
have some talent and a lot of motivation to learn," Radio
Shack`s Team Manager Alain Gallopin said when asked if Indians
could be a part of the team in the near future.

"We have two Asian riders right now, but last year we
also had a Chinese rider. Asia is an important market for our
bicycle sponsor Trek. We cannot exclude that we will include
more Asian riders in the future. And why not an Indian one.
Honestly, I know nothing about Indian cycling, but I will know
soon. If I see some talent over there, of course we will keep
an eye on them," Gallopin said.

"For the moment there are so many talented guys like Andy
Schleck and Alberto Contador for the big Tours and Fabian
Cancellara and Philippe Gilbert for the classics. But there
are so many others stars to watch out for. Why not for an
Indian rider in the future?," he added.

The two legs of the international race, offering USD
50,000 to the winner, will be held in Nashik on February 11
and in Mumbai on February 13.

The Frenchman, who has been associated with teams like La
Francaise des Jeux (1997-2000), Mercury Viatel (2001), Team
Coast (2002-2003), Team Bianchi (2003), Team CSC (2004-2007),
and Team Astana (2008-2009), said organising an event as big
as the Mumbai Cyclothon was the first step towards
popularising cycling as a sport in the country.

"To organise a big race is already a first step and an
important step in the development of the sport over there.
Many other countries did the same in the past and are now big
cycling countries.”

"Another important factor will be how the cycling youth
will be educated. Youth in general needs to be brought into
contact with the sport (by means of organising races for
instance) and then it can be useful to bring some foreign
coaches to the country. They can bring the cycling culture to
India. It will be a question of years but it is not a mission
impossible," the 53-year-old added.

"The fact that last year one Pro Tour team participated,
and this year there are two. Also this year more teams will
participate. This is an optimistic way forward," he added.

Gallopin said though enhancing the standard of the event
will be dependent on the government providing initiatives, the
participating teams can also help by performing well.

"By performing well this year, the level will
automatically rise and more teams will come spontaneously next
year. One extra useful thing can be a change in date. In
February there is a lot of competition between organisations.
Not all teams want to do those long travels in a well filled
February month," he added.

The Radioshack Team Manager said that the team had the
wherewithal to overcome the absence of cycling legend Lance
Armstrong, who reportedly participated in his last overseas
race at the Tour Down Under last month.

"For the moment, in 2011, we will count again on our "old" guys like Levi Leipheimer and Andreas Kloden, who showed in the past to be able to arrive on the podium of the Tour de France, but we also expect a lot of Jani Brajkovic. Our Slovenian rider made a big step forwards last year by winning a hard Dauphine Libere against Alberto Contador.”

"If Brajkovic can stay healthy, he must be able to perform equally in the Tour de France. For a later future we have a lot of young riders like Tiago Machado and Ben Hermans. They are good climbers and have time trial skills. They just need some experience. Give them some time," he said.

Gallopin said he was satisfied with the performance of his team, since it was founded in July 2009.

"We may not complain as we won last year the Team`s Classification in the hardest race on earth, the Tour de France. On the other hand we did not win so many races as we missed a sprinter. The races we won were from a high level.”

"Amongst them Dauphine Libere with Jani Brajkovic and the Tour of the Basque Country with Chris Horner and not to forget, we had Lance Armstrong in the team. His presence opened many doors. All attention of the media and the public went to our team. Moreover Lance`s presence was important for the young guys of the team, our future..."

PTI

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