India's big Ride set to kickoff with Hero Asian Cycling C'ship
New Delhi: Fresh from their exposure at the World Championship at Belarus last month, Indian cyclists will look to put up a solid display when they line up along with Asia`s best riders in the Hero Asian Cycling Championship to be held at the national capital from March 7 to 17.
For India, the biggest hope will lie on the dynamic quartet of Chandrasekar Rajesh, Amarjit Singh, Amrit Singh and Bikram Singh, who created a little piece of history by qualifying for the World Championships for only the second time ever following their participation in the event in 2012.
Never before a cycling event of this stature in terms of participation has been held in the country as the prestigious event will witness close to 800 riders, including 49 Indian riders and half a dozen Olympic medallists, from 29 countries vying for the top honours.
One of India`s bright hope in cycling, C Rajesh did not even know he was ever going to walk again, leave alone ride a bicycle after a fatal head injury during a training session last year.
He was in coma for almost six months before reviving his chances in cycling, thanks to his father`s support and encouragement.
"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 Tamil Nadu`s Rajesh, who had slipped into a coma 10 days after the injury.
When everyone had lost hope of his comeback, the Cycling Federation of India came to Rajesh`s aid by chipping in and footing his medical bill.
President, Organizing Committee, Hero Asian Cycling Championship, Parminder Singh Dhindsa, said: "It just goes to show the fighting abilities of our riders like Rajesh. We want more and more cyclists from India to take to the sport. Rest assured, we will be supporting them in every way possible. We hope Indian cyclists will start winning medals for India soon at the international meets."
Incidentally, Rajesh became the first cyclist from India to qualify for the World Championship at Minsk in an individual event (Scratch Race).
Besides Rajesh, riders such as Amarjit, Amrit, Bikram, Deborah, and Mahita Mohan, among other Indian riders, will also be determined to prove a point before the home crowd when the main event begins from March 7.
Punjab`s Amarjit Singh, 19, who has many national records to his credit, says: "Someday I want to ride the bicycle like my idol Chris Hoy and win medal for India at the biggest show on earth, the Olympics."
Encouraged by the scale and quality of participants, the corporate world`s response has been heart-warming with Hero Cycles joining hands with Cycling Federation of India as the title sponsor for the 33rd Senior and 20th Junior Asian Cycling Championship.
Keeping in mind the budding cyclists, for whom importing bicycles cost a fortune, Pankaj Munjal, MD, Hero cycle ltd & Co-Chairman, has committed to making a difference.
"This is only a start. In future, Hero will manufacture high-end bicycles meant for professional riders in India itself so that we do not have to import them," he said.
Interacting with the media, Dhindsa added, "India`s qualification at the Belarus World Championship is a result of the hard work put in by our cyclists and it is a big step forward. It is a huge opportunity for India as we can use this tournament to bid for the biggest tournaments in Cycling like the World Championships and help Indian cycling gain a foothold internationally."
Among the big names who will gun for glory in Delhi, include London Olympics multiple medal winner Guo Shuang of China and 2010 World Championship silver medallist Azizulhasni Awang of Malaysia.
Not to be left out are the differently-abled riders, who will be seen in action at a Para-Cycling event tomorrow for the very first time. Cyclists from four countries, including the host, will participate in the event.