Originally posted as ‘Riding it softly into Specialized zone’ in
Sport section of Hindustan Times 30/03/2012. Article by Sharmistha Chaudhuri
“Dreams really do come true…” sang Judy Garland in the Wizard of Oz. But when dreams become a reality, how does one express oneself? “I had a dream but what has happened is beyond imagination,” said an ecstatic Vivek Radhakrishnan. The three-and-a-half-year long effort of the designer-cum-professional cyclist was finally recognised when ‘Specialized KYNKYNY Cycling’ became the country’s first fully sponsored professional team.
What Radhakrishnan, pro Darren Reid and former India manager Venkatesh Shivarama — the trio that collaborated to form an elite 12-member cycling team in the country last year — had dreamt, gave way to reality when ‘Specialized’, one of the largest bicycle brands in the world, believed in them.
“It was almost surreal when they contacted me,” said Radhakrishnan from Bangalore. “They’ve given us Rs 70 lakh worth of world class equipment already and want to have a long-term partnership.” They are only the second team in Asia to be fully sponsored by the American company.
With the equipment taken care of, attention now shifts to custom clothing. “‘Champion System’, one of the best custom clothing companies in the world are providing us with Rs 10lakh worth of custom clothing for the riders and support staff this year,” he added.
But how did this team catch the eye? “We participated in 27 races last year in five countries and had 23 podium finishes with only basic equipment. Those results gave us huge attention,” he explained on Thursday.
The professional riders, who hail from various parts of the country, train in Bangalore. And it’s not easy to train for one of the toughest sports in the world. The road race training begins with riding over 100km each morning for six days a week followed by a rigorous gym session.
The next step is to register with the Union Cycliste International as a continental team to be able to participate in the UCI races in the Asian circuit. “That’s the plan from 2013.” Also on the cards is a plan to send Indian cyclists to train in Europe.
The next international event for them is the ‘Tour of Friendship’ in Thailand next month. Rider Lokesh Narsimachar had finished 10th in one stage with basic equipment last year. The 28-year-old, who has never owned a cycle, finally has one. With specialised equipment now, sky is the limit for this talented athlete.