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Cycling in Mumbai is mainly for transportation, but a race in India could change that.
Indian professional race aims for ProTour status within five years
Professional cycling's global expansion will continue this weekend as one of the world's greatest economic powers plays host to its first-ever pro race on Sunday, February 21. The Mumbai Cyclothon, or Tour of Bombay, is a one-day criterium in the Indian megalopole that will cover 100 kilometres.
The 120 rider peloton will include Saxo Bank professionals Stuart O'Grady and Baden Cooke, with Estonian sprinter Jaan Kirsipuu to compete as a member of the LeTua cycling team. Trek-Livestrong rider Charlie Avis has also been confirmed for the event and will race as part of a composite Mumbai All-stars team that will also include Olympic gold medallist Scott McGrory.
ProTour teams Saxo Bank and Cervélo TestTeam will take part in the event, alongside Continental squads CKT-Champion System, Glud&Marstrand Horsens, Giant Asia, LeTua and Marco Polo. Indian and Malaysian national teams will also line-up for the event.
The event has been recognized by the International Cycling Union (UCI) as a Cat. 1.2 race and is chaperoned by Eddy Merckx. On a circuit of 2.8 kilometres that will be raced 36 times, the peloton will fight for intermediate sprints every five laps. The winner pocket a first prize of US$50,000 (36,400 Euros).
Race director David McQuaid, son of the UCI president Pat McQuaid, described the task of designing a course within the tight streets of Mumbai as "challenging", but was confident the event will deliver a high standard of racing.
With a population of over 1 billion people, organisers are hopeful the race will not only increase interest in pro cycling in India, but also promote the health benefits of the sport. The professional criterium will take place alongside a number of other races designed for amateur riders and children. Registrations for these support events have already reached 10,000.
"I really hope that this race will develop the culture of cycling in India," said Pat McQuaid.
Baqar Nasser, former Indian rider and member of the organising committee, is excited to welcome an international field of riders to the pro event. "I never would have imagined that such prestigious riders would be present," said Nasser, who hopes to organise similar races in other Indian cities soon and be able to conduct a Tour of India in the future.
"We have high hopes for this race, especially for the Indian riders," he continued. "The national team went to Australia for training. We hope to see them in the top-10."
The organisers of the race will continue their work with the UCI and the Tour Down Under as they aim to obtain ProTour status within five years time.