On the night of the 31st March 2012, India’s first ever fully sponsored professional cycling team, The Specialized Kynkyny Cycling team (SKCT) was launched in Bengaluru, marking a huge milestone for cycling in India.
"SKCT is not just a team, but more importantly a long term programme supported by Specialized [group] to develop cycling in India, and nurture young local talent," says Vivek Radhakrishnan, one of the two founders of The Kynkyny Wheel Sporting Cycling Club (KWCC).
KWCC has been a key factor in the development of competitive cycling in the country. Members of this club are now part of the newly launched SKCT. Specialized Bicycle Components is leader in manufacturing high performance, technologically advanced bicycles, cycling equipment and apparel for world champion cyclists.
Prior to this, KWCC survived on sponsors and infrastructures provided by private businesses like ‘Kynkyny‘, a furniture brand, and ‘Wheel Sports‘ which is a retailer of cycling equipment.
As Vivek says, "It [SKCT] is the first fully sponsored bike racing team in the country. This will push other brands and corporates to do the same with other upcoming teams, providing a much needed technical and financial infrastructure for the sport to grow and gain popularity."
To be able to preform to their fullest potential, all the team members need to be provided with professional equipment and guidance. Being the first fully sponsored team, SKCT will receive cycles, riding apparel etc through the various organisations sponsoring them. With a set package like this, the team need not worry anymore about finding sponsors often.
In 2011, KWCC, as a club had a great racing season, where they participated in 27 races across 5 countries. The club won 9 races, while securing 23 podiums! It was in the beginning of 2012 that the club caught the attention of the Director of Business Development at Specialized Bicycle Components. Specialized identified KWCC as being extremely competitive and as having the most amount of potential amongst the other teams in India, and offered them a partnership.
The team consists of twelve members who are all mostly Bangalore based, while the rest come from places like Bijapur, Delhi, Mysore and Himachal Pradesh. Many of the riders come from rural backgrounds and have had had trouble supporting themselves as athletes, but the formation of SKCT has helped them with not only world-class equipment, accommodation and structured training, but the possibility to be a professional in the sport of cycling.
Lokesh Narasimhachar from Mysore is one of the team’s most talented cyclists. Being a cyclist for the last 11 years, he has participated in many of the the high level of races across India. He has participated in the Asian Games and was on the national team, racing at many international level races. All through this time, Lokesh was unable to afford a professional racing cycle, and hugely depended on Venkatesh Shivarama, the other founder of KWCC from Wheel Sports. Each of the cyclists in the team have similar stories.
Training is key
Being an extremely demanding and physically challenging sport, the team train cycling upto 70 to 150 kilometers a day, six days a week. With bicycle races being 60 to 250 kilometers long, where cyclists reach upto the speed of 60 km/h, to be able to reach this high standard of cycling, rigorous training is inevitable. The team mainly trains in the North Bangalore, and often ride on the Airport road towards Hyderabad and the Nandi Hills.
In the year 2012, the team has already lined up for 20 races and three are already over. At the end of this month, they will be heading to their biggest event this year to Thailand to participate in the Tour the Friendship, which consists of a 5-stage race. This race has many of the world’s strongest cycling teams particiapting. The team has been training since November 2011, for this race is going to be extremely challenging and difficult!
More Bengalureans opt for cycling
With improving technology, rising production and sales of international branded cycles in India, more people are opting to cycle, whether it is just to work and back, or getting their cycles out on weekends and heading out of the city.
"It [cycling] is all green, and that’s why I think cycling is important, and more people should get into it," says 21-year-old Shashank C K who travels all over Bangalore on his geared cycle. He with two of his friends started a small cycling group called Chain Adventures, with the aim of ‘getting to know the city on wheels‘ and having fun no matter what your level, while at the same time, being safe.
Encouraging cycling are groups in the city like The Bangalore Biker’s Club, BumsOnTheSaddle and even smaller groups like Chain Adventures who are all are ultimately aiming at one thing, which is to spread the joy and sense of adventure of cycling. ⊕