Road Cycling

Competitive cycling will take time to return: Naveen John – Times of India

Representative Photo by TOI

BENGALURU: For two weeks before Lockdown 4.0 began, cyclists in the Garden City – competitive and recreational alike – had a dream run, taking in the rare fresh air and having the road to themselves. But all the freedom they enjoyed disappeared just as quickly when a few restrictions were lifted.
The return of the monsters (cabs, buses and trucks) brought them back to reality. Like Greek tennis sensation Stefanos Tsitsipas, who felt yearly lockdown would be good for the planet, the cyclists too may hope for some sort of curbs on traffic that will give them some breathing space.
However, chaotic traffic is not going to stop serious cyclists from training, even if they end up doing a lot of junk miles (around 20-25km) before hitting the various highways for their regular workouts in these testing times.
And cycling was probably the first to rebound, at least in the Garden City, which has become a major hub for the sport in recent years with young hopefuls from across the country making it their home, including five-time road cycling National champion Naveen John.
“The calm that cyclists have enjoyed for the past two weeks has disappeared very quickly,” said John, who chose to live closer to Nandi Hills for hassle-free training.
The pandemic has brought sport to a standstill and there is uncertainty about the future. “I think it is not really different from what athletes (in India) faced in normal situations too. There is always uncertainty around when competitions are going to be held, or whether they are going to be held,” John said and added: “The situation doesn’t seem alien because the rest of the world is also experiencing it.”
Although training is yet to begin in most disciplines, John, the reigning National champion, feels it won’t be an issue with cycling. “As far as riding and training goes, I think those things will return to normal quicker than most people think. One big thing is the mental hurdle of getting back out there, getting into a rhythm. Once you resume training, you get into the flow and the mindset. Personally, I overcame that within a day,” he said.
However, he was sceptical about the competition making a quick return. “Competitive cycling is not going to come back till the end of the year or the beginning of next year,” he said.
“With funding an issue at the moment, something like the National Championships could possibly not even happen this year and may happen early next year,” said John. “I feel things like community racing will return a lot faster because they don’t need much funds and resources,” he added.
When the lockdown came into force, competitive racing began through virtual tools all over the world. Closer home, there have been a few online Nandi Hills climb races and other events on Zwift and a couple of other platforms.
With social distancing an issue, John felt that timed events would probably make the first return to actual racing. “That’s the beauty of cycling, it works really well when you’re with a bunch of people and otherwise. I think this is a good opportunity for endurance sports to flourish,” he said.