Track Asian Cup cycling: it could be a bumpy ride for India

India’s medal hopes in the event rest in team sprint - men and women - junior men’s sprint, besides the individual abilities of Deborah.

Deborah of Andaman will spearhead India's challenge at the Track Asian Cup.   -  Prashant Nakwe

Indian cycling is in the process of restoring lost pride. For long considered a ‘tainted’ discipline, the sport is taking baby steps towards redemption with some very talented youngsters working quietly in a systematic manner and picking up odd medals from the international arena.

With the Olympic qualifying race well and truly on, the Cycling Federation of India (CFI) is following the dictates of the World body (UCI) to host events in order to not only help Indian cyclists gain valuable ranking points at home but also ensure participation in the World Championship in January 2016.

As a result, the Capital is hosting the Track Asian Cup for the second successive year at the Yamuna Velodrome. Over the next three days, India along with nine other countries will form the field for this Class I event. The ranking points earned from this competition will help a cyclist inch closer to a spot in the Olympic Games next year.

Unlike last year, when only five nations participated and India made the most of the depleted field to collect 14 medals – five gold, four silver and five bronze medals – in the elite events, the story this year could be quite different.

With challengers from formidable Korea, Uzbekistan and Iran, besides the United Arab Emirates and Nepal joining strong contenders Kazakhstan, Hong Kong, Thailand and Bangladesh, the competition is expected to be much harder for the hosts, who are fielding two other teams – SAINCA and CFI.

Deborah, India’s flag-bearer in the world of cycling, won four gold medals here last November. She won the titles in Keirin (eight laps), sprint (three laps), 500-metre time trials and the team sprint with Kezia Vargheese. Over the next three days, the Indian camp will once again look to this 20-year-old from Andaman to bring cheer. After all, she appears in good form, having won one gold, three silver and a bronze medal at the Taiwan Cup last month.

Again, India’s medal hopes rest in team sprint - men and women - junior men’s sprint, besides the individual abilities of Deborah. Among the junior men, Sahil Kumar is considered a medal prospect.

“I am fully prepared. A good show will give me opportunities to qualify for some major international events. I am using this event to further improve my timing and earn more points,” said Deborah on Tuesday.

However, a wrist injury to Sinuraj Sanandaraj is sure to hamper India’s prospects in the team sprint. In the absence of Sinuraj, the duo of Amarjeet Singh Nagi and Alan Baby, a promising junior like Emerson, could complete the three-member team.

In the women’s team event, Deborah and Kezia could find it tough to retain the title.

Overall, Korea is expected to dominate the event.