New Delhi: Gradually gaining in confidence after increased exposure, Indian cyclists will be pitted against the region`s best when the 33rd Asian Championships begin here tomorrow.
The 33rd senior and 20th junior Championships will roll out in two venues till March 17. The track events will be held at the Indira Gandhi Indoor Stadium`s velodrome followed by the road races at the Buddh International Circuit, the state-of-the-art Formula One venue.
Over 50, of the 800 in fray from 29 countries, are expected to be Indians, whose first and only medal in the event, a silver in the women`s team pursuit, came in 2005 when the country hosted the event in Ludhiana.
The quartet of Chandrasekar Rajesh, Amarjit Singh, Amrit Singh and Bikram Singh, who created history by qualifying for the World Championships for only the second time ever, would be the best bets for India in the men`s competition.
All four of them have inspiring stories of struggle and triumph to tell and they would be hoping to go that extra mile in terms of timings and results when they get on their cycles in front of home fans.
Of these, Rajesh did not even know whether he would walk again, leave alone ride a cycle after a fatal head injury during a training session in 2012.
He was in coma for 10 days before his father inspired him back to life and cycling.
"When I suffered the injury, I did not have any hope about ever racing in the future. All credit to my father for inspiring me to make a comeback," says the Tamil Nadu-lad, who began the year with a bang by winning the Chandigarh Cyclothon.
The most high-profile male contestant in the event is 2010 World Championship silver-medallist Azizulhasni Awang of Malaysia.
Among the women, Indian hopes would rest on Mahita Mohan, a National Games gold-medallist. She was a creditable sixth in the Commonwealth Games track pursuit and would be hoping to improve the show when she returns to the same velodrome.
The top international contestants in the event include London Olympics multiple medal winner Guo Shuang of China and the just-concluded World Championships gold medallist Wai Sze Lee.
Also in the spotlight would be 19-year-old Tsunami survivor Deborah, who has been dubbed the `The Wondergirl` by the Cycling Federation of India.
The gritty girl clinched her first track gold in the Amritsar Nationals in January this year. Last year, Deborah won a gold medal at the Junior National Cycling Championships before managing a silver medal in the senior category later in the same year.
We're building him (RvP) up now because of the World Cup. It’s a pity but we have to or he’ll never be fit.
Louis van Gaal