From 07-17 March, India hosts the Asian Cycling Championships for the third time in the event’s 50 year history. Most of the Asian Cycling Confederation’s 41 eligible nations will send their best riders to New Delhi to contest across road and track cycling disciplines. The winner of the men’s road race will leave India with a white Asian Cycling Champion jersey and a ticket to the Olympic road race in Rio 2016.
Alongside China and Indonesia, India is one of the few remaining countries of immense scale in the Asia region that is awakening to the potential for cycling to become a truly national sport. However, despite the launch of its first semi-professional road team last year, India’s reputation as a destination for international cycling events is yet to be convincing; to wit, the empty streets of the 2010 Commonwealth Games road race – only the roadsides of the inaugural Tour of Beijing looked more desolate – and the postponed, altered and, ultimately, cancelled ‘Tour de India‘ last year.
Nonetheless, India appears to be serious about carving out a significant role in the global cycling scene.
“Cycling as a sport has a huge potential in India and we want to play an important role in the growth of the sport across the country” said Pankaj Munjal, Chairman and Managing Director Hero Cycles and Co-Chairman, Organising Committee, Asian Cycling Championships 2013, at the event’s launch in New Delhi on Thursday. “There can be no bigger platform than the Asian Cycling Championship to kick start the campaign to spread the sport in the country and we are determined to take this association beyond this competition.
“The event is all the more important for Indian cyclists who can use this as a platform to perform well at the international level and will get a chance to make an impact in front of the home crowd. 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.”
Mercifully, the road races are being held at the Buddh International F1 Racing Circuit, which hopefully means the tight security restricting roadside access for local fans at the Commonwealth Games three years ago will no longer be required.India’s largest bicycle manufacturer, Hero Cycles, has also stepped up as the naming sponsor of the Championships.