India's Cycling Probables Waiting a Year for Bikes

By Bharat Sharma

New Delhi, Sep 1 (IANS): Bizarre as it may appear, but the Indian cyclists for the Oct 3-14 Commonwealth Games will be lucky if they can ride their competitive bikes before the Games get under way.

The biggest worry of the cyclists is that they may not be able to get used to the new bikes after using their not-so-sophisticated personal bikes during training both at home and overseas.

As things stand, the cyclists, who were promised the bikes in July before the Test event, have now been told that they can hope to get them barely a fortnight before the Games.

The Sports Authority of India (SAI) and the sports ministry are pointing fingers at each other for the ludicrous situation the cyclists find themselves in. The ministry claims it had allocated Rs.30 crore for the procurement of bikes and training almost a year ago, but SAI sat on this.

Under the circumstances, says Indian coach Chayan Chowdhury, the cyclists had no choice but to train on their personal bikes.

"Currently, the cyclists are using bikes which are made of iron or aluminum. At the Games they will be using bikes with features like aerodynamics to help them gain corner speed. It will be made of carbon and will be lighter. You can't really compare the two," Chowdhury told IANS.

Games probable Maniton Singh, who emerged as the fastest Indian in the Delhi Cylothon Sunday, said it will take time for them to adjust to the new bikes.

"If we had got the cycles before we got down to train, it would have given us more time to adjust to them. We have our own cycles but they are not good enough for the highest level," rues Maniton.

The Cycling Federation of India (CFI) said that the sports ministry sanctioned Rs.1.61 crores July 17, 2009 for procuring 44 bikes for the 34 probables Indian cycling squad.

"The government had so much of time. The performance of the cyclists could have been better had the equipment arrived on time. What was SAI doing all this time," a top CFI official told IANS not wanting to be named.

The cycles are likely to arrive by Sep 17 and then assembling will be done by Sep 20. After months of delay, the contract for the cycles has been given to English company Dolan.

"The sports ministry gave the money on time to SAI. I don't know the reason for the delay. They have procured the equipment for other sports. Now, SAI has given the money to IOA for procuring the cycles. We did everything that was required," a sports ministry official said on the condition of anonymity.

The Sports Authority of India (SAI) acknowledged the money was received on time but said the suppliers quoted unreasonable amounts for the cycles.

"We can't give suppliers whatever they ask for, that’s why the delay," said Pravir Krishn, SAI joint secretary and special officer for the Commonwealth Games.

To add more confusion, SAI has now roped in the Indian Olympic Association to procure the cycles.

"The IOA has been roped in to do the job. We are helping them to get it. We will have the cycles for the team at the earliest. The cyclists do have their own cycles and they have been training on them from the last three years," Krishn said.

"The team has had camps both in India and overseas. We have built the team from scratch," he added.

Chowdhury said his players are anxiously waiting for the new cycles.

"Cycling is a dangerous sport. The players hesitate to use their own bikes freely, because the cycles are expensive and they are not in a position to pay for the damage. If the government is taking care of the bikes, they will not have any worry," he said.


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