Indian cycling, are we progressing?

Photo in The Times of India, January 30, 2019

There are a lot of Indians who cycle for a living, for fun, for health and or for the sheer joy it brings. There is a huge range of cycles and cyclists in our country. The range and variety available offers cycling a very dynamic ecosystem.

The majority of cyclists in India are those who rely on a cycle for their living like the doodhwalas (milkmen), postmen, farmers etc. There are some who take it upon themselves to cycle all the time, go through a rigorous training regimen and work on the watts and calories and everything else that would make them faster by doing whatever is best known to them and or their coaches.

Obviously, the numbers of the latter bunch are not as much as those who use a cycle to commute or do their chores each day, but they are significant in their own way. These bring pride and glory to the country. 

Cycling Federation of India is the governing body and conducts competitions in various categories on a regular basis. There are affiliated State associations along with independent cycling clubs in some cities to keeping the community active. Some cities in India even have Bicycling Mayors to champion cycling in their cities.

While there is a lot of concern about safety and one becomes aware of accidents and cyclists losing lives every other day, the ‘crazy’ cyclists who commit themselves and give it their all to chase their dreams of medalling at National and international events need a pat on their back. I can hear you say “Of course, they must be getting the accolades they deserve.”

Unfortunately, it may not be entirely true.

To provide a background, each State association, Services and Railways sports boards conduct competitions and only the best cyclists compete in the Nationals. As much as we hope they are all treated like champions, newspapers have reported more than once that the facilities they are provided are far from what they deserve.

Here’s some evidence from today’s newspapers. 

Article in The Times of India, January 30, 2019

 

Going by the article in today’s newspaper, there is deep concern. Yes, undeniably there is a lot of effort going on to improve the state of affairs in Indian sports. Maybe cycling is not one of the sports in focus? If it is not, I wonder why not.

Here are some reasons why I believe cycling should not be neglected.

If one is to think about health and improving life, cycling has great benefits. I know stories of people who started cycling and hence gave up alcohol and/or smoking, lost weight, lead happy and fulfilling lives and are more positive. Even in terms of economy, cycling is a huge industry.

We know that encouraging cyclists will only help reduce pollution and create safe commutable cities and towns. Cycling can also bring in tourism. No prizes for guessing that if cycling is given its due, it will create more champions in the sport and put us on the international cycling map, where we hardly exist with a few exceptions.  

A recent post in Cycling Federation of India’s Facebook page showcasing international success

Cyclists who reached Jaipur to compete will not complain as they would be risking their careers but isn’t is unfair that they are expected to race and race well given the conditions in which they are made to stay? There is enough and more research that shows the significance of sleep on performance but has that changed the basics that are missed out and messed around with? 

The article also makes me wonder, who is responsible? Is it the organisers at the State-level? The Rajasthan Cycling Association? Or is it the Cycling Federation of India, affiliated to the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports and the Indian Olympic Association? Is it the coaches/team managers or the athletes themselves?

The hosts are supposed to provide accommodation for National-level competitions but there seems to be a significant discrepancy. Who can help these athletes find better accommodation so they can get a good night’s sleep before each race? Hearteningly, the Ministry has stepped in to tell the Rajasthan Cycling Association through CFI to improve things. But should it have needed an outrage in the first place?

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