Gone are the days when cycling was considered just as a mode of transport. From being a poor man’s trip to hobby of a rich man, cycles cater to the needs of all the people. Over the past few decades, cycling has gone on to be just a humble mode of commute to one of the coolest sports. Globally, cycling has become one of the most respected sports considering it needs intense stamina, endurance, and energy. As with other sports, Indians are not far behind in cycling as well! The Cycling Federation of India (CFI) is responsible for the promotion of cycling as a sport in India. Across the nation, CFI develops and directs cycling under all forms to make the forerunners in this sport. On that note, let us meet the top Indian cyclists.
The 25-year-old Sreedhar Savanur from Karnataka is among India’s best sprinters. He is considered as leading Indian cyclists and has been champion for many years. The champ represented India at the Commonwealth Games 2014 Glasgow, Scotland. Sreedhar belongs to a family of farmers but that did not let him give shed his dreams of playing for his country. He has bagged nine gold, five silver and six bronze medals in cycling. The Karnataka State Government has bestowed him the Eklavya Award, the highest recognition Karnataka State Government in the year 2013. He had been a racing champion for three years on a trot and works for the Railways to support his family.
Bikram Singh, a 32-year-old from Imphal, Manipur comes second in the list. In the early age, he was a footballer. He represented in many state level competitions. But the knack of the cycling came to him from his childhood days too. Bikram played football till state level, before he took to cycling and in his later career; he followed with the same. He competed in the 5th National Games, held in Imphal, Manipur in February 1999.He helped in improving the face of cycling in the velodrome in Manipur and became familiar and father face amongst the youth. Bikram claimed more than 30 gold, 15 silver and 16 bronze medals in international stint. He also qualified for world track cycling championship held in Australia in 2012.
Why should boys have all the fun! The 29-year-old Deborah Herold once created history by becoming the 1st female cyclist from India to be ranked 4th asn per the World Elite UCI Women Ranking. Coming from the islands of Andaman and Nicobar, she was just nine when the Tsunami in Indian Ocean Nicobar air base, where her father worked as an Air Force officer. Talking to one of the media networks she said, “I could not see my mother as a huge wave engulfed them. I was separated from my mother and I was all alone. My only chance of survival now was to climb a tree. I perched myself on the tree and survived on its leaves and barks for five days. The police finally arrived and brought me down. For days, I was too weak to move but gradually, I recovered.”
She bared financial troubles and left family behind to achieve her dreams. The venue for training camp for cycling was Delhi and Deborah was muggy as she had very few friends. The language barrier in the city added to more troubles. But her hard work repaid success. Deborah won five medals, counting one gold, three silver and a bronze medal, at the Taiwan Cup Track International Classic event in 2015. She also won 4 gold in Track Asia Cup Cycling Championship 2014, New Delhi.
What if we tell you that she is the woman who has won 102 medals altogether? Hard to believe, isn’t it? But, yes you read it right. The 41-year-old C. Rameshwori Devi who hails from Manipur is one of the famous female cyclists in India. Rameshwori is an inspiration to anybody who thinks balancing is an act of the experts only. She is not only a cyclist but a mother and a CID officer at the same time. Like many Rameshwori, switched many times from cricket to basketball to triathlons before focussing only on cycling.
She donned the national jersey to represent India in cycling at the 2010 Asian Games. A mother of two took break from cycling for span of three years devoting her time to maternal duties but pedals of cycle couldn’t kept her long. She bounced back in 2015 where she won 100th medal of her career. In 2005, Devi has bagged silver in at Asian Cycling Championship.
The 27-year-old Amrit Singh from Punjab is in the list too. He was one of the members of the Indian squadron who qualified to represent India for the first time in World Track Cycling Championship held in Australia in 2012. Amrit took cycling at the age of 8. He first took part in the National Championship in the U-12 category in 2004. In 2006, Amrit lost his father and as the lone child, the responsibility of his family rested upon his shoulders.
With grit, determination and focus, he never broke the chain of his success and marched on the route of success. The champ has won 34 gold, 11 silver and 3 bronze medals at international and continental level. He represented India in World Track cycling championship in Australia 2012. Amrit Singh also made proud by donning India twice in Commonwealth Games, twice in Asian Games, thrice in World Cup, 6 times in Asian Cycling Championship and 6 times in Asia Cup.
Lt Col Srinivas Gokulnath
Srinivas Gokulnath: An army doctor by profession and cyclist by choice. This man has pedalled 3,000 miles, across 12 states and climbed 1,70,000 vertical feet, to become the first Indian to complete Race Across America (RAAM). From mild regions on the Pacific Coast to the furnace-like Mojave Desert, the cyclists pass through dry Arizona, struggle through cold mountain passes in Colorado and windy plains in central America. He once quoted, “I have been an ultra cyclist since 2009. The distance is what has kept me going. When I would complete 150 km, I thought to myself, why not 200 km… why not 300 km? I wanted to challenge myself to do things I had never done before.” Gokulnath is also the first Indian to complete arguably the world’s toughest cycling race.
Meet Navin John, the first ever Indian cyclist to not only participate but to achieve landmark globally. But his success is no small wonder. He once was overweight kid and lived an inactive lifestyle. The journey started when Naveen John got introduced to collegiate cycling when he was pursuing his Bachelors in Electrical Engineering at Purdue University, USA. While in college, every weekend, Naveen and his mates would drive across the mid-western USA, load their bikes in a car and moved off to race the collegiate cycling calendar of events. In 2012, after wrapping up USA and weighing options between a full-time job back home in India, he picked a third option. It was not other than cycling. Fast forward to the end of 2014, he won gold in Indian National Games. From that, he never looked back and won many laurels around the world.
Dr Amit Samarth
Tour de France is the only event that comes to mind when you think of cycling. But it is the Trans-Siberian Extreme (TSE) race that is measured to be the most difficult cycle race around the globe. Till September 2018, no Asian had ever finished on the podium but it was Dr Amit Samarth from Nagpur pedalled his way through the competition and created history. Before completing the TSE, Samarth had already completed the Race Across America. He has the distinction of being one of two cyclists in the world to have completed both the RAAM and TSE.
Before RAAM, Amit decided to take on a distance he had never ridden before on his bicycle. Beginning from Nagpur, the route went through Hyderabad-Bengaluru-Hubli-Belgaum-Kolhapur-Satara-Pune, before finishing in Nagpur again. Professional life took Samarth across India. A job with a corporate also took him to Bangladesh.
Sounds like a European name? But he is one of the famous Indian cyclists. Esow Alben created history on the very next Independence Day of India in 2018, by winning India’s first junior cycling World Cup silver medal in the men’s Keirin event of the UCI Junior Track Cycling World Championships held in Aigle, Switzerland. Surprisingly, it was his first major feat on foreign soil. Hailing from Andaman and Nicobar Islands, the cyclist already has a pool of achievements to his name.
The 19-year-old cyclist has overseen great run in the Asian Championships as well as triumphs in the 2018 Cottbuser Sprint Cup 2, GP Brno Track Cycling competitions. The young Indian also earned the No.1 ranking in the Junior Sprint category which made him the first Indian to reach the top spot.
Meet the cyclist who has won the gold medal in South Asian Games and participated in the World Championship held in Doha, Qatar, Arvind Panwar. He was doing athletics from the age of 16 (mid-long distance running) with his elder brother but didn’t see noticeable results than his cousin brother, Sachin. This was the time when he realised that he should take cycling as seriously as a sport. He was always into adventure and loved exploring new places, it was more exciting for him. Arvind is an employee at Kolkata Eastern Railway, hails from Meerut, Uttar Pradesh.