New Delhi: The Track Asia Cup 2014 will be the first such opportunity for the home-bred cyclists to take a small step towards qualifying for the World Championships in France, when the tournament kicks off at the IG Stadium Velodrome here on Friday.
Only top 24 top countries qualify for the worlds, while just nine qualify for the Olympics. The Indian cyclists will have to pedal hard to maximise their advantage in home conditions to finish on top of the podium in order to log maximum points.
The Indian team will largely pin its hope on its women cyclists led by Deborah, while the men's team, spearheaded by Amrit Singh, is expected to give hosts a good standing on the medal chart in the Class 1 competition.
With the late withdrawal of two more teams -- Uzbekistan and Malaysia -- after Pakistani cyclists yesterday, the competition has been reduced to a four-way contest between Indian, Hong Kong, Thailand and Kazakhstan.
"Yes, the pullout of the three teams may have taken the sheen somewhat off the event, but by no stretch of imagination has it made things easier for other competitors. On the contrary, you will get to see very close contests among riders," said India's chief national coach R K Sharma.
The pullout of teams has turned out to be a blessing in disguise as it has given CFI (Cycling Federation of India) an opportunity to field two Indian teams -- the Services and Railways -- not only to give exposure to the cyclists but also help set the pace for Indian riders.
Track cycling in Olympics or the world meet has competitions in 10 events, but the New Delhi meet will see only eight of them being conducted as Indians are not well-versed in madison and omnium.
According to UCI (International Cycling Federation) rules, any six of the competitions are a must for a track event. Hong Kong will be fielding nine-member strong team with five male and four female riders, while Kazakhstan has brought seven male riders and a lone female cyclist. Bangladesh, too, has a predominantly male team with just three women riders accompanying the squad. The Thai team has a 6-2 combination.
All teams will be competing both in the senior and junior categories. Indian women's squad stands a good chance in the three-day event, but the Indian coach refused to predict on the medal count.
"All foreign teams have sent their best riders and we will hope to win medals. Yes, our riders are well prepared for the championships and would do well to finish on top of the podium," said Sharma.
But the team members were upbeat about the "home" championships and assured to do their best. "We have been training hard for this meet and we are confident of winning medals," said India's golden girl in cycling, Deborah.
Her teammate Kezia Verghese echoed her views and said she was ready for the challenge. The trio of Amrit Singh, Allan Baby and Amarjit Singh were equally confident about their performances.