The Tour de Mumbai will be held this weekend as India hosts the first-ever UCI-sanctioned road racing event in the country.
It certainly appears that a lot is riding on this event, since not only does the race feature several world-class cyclists racing with the best riders that India has to offer, but the race organizers are also looking for the race to boost public awareness of the sport.
Baqar Nasser, a former Indian national champion and now a member of the race committee, says that he is already excited at the opportunity of seeing so many top-notch cyclists competing in the invitation-only event. He adds that the local talent will be expected to race with a high level of competition. “I think they will be in the top 10,” Nasser says of the Indian cycling team.
The Tour de Mumbai is also supported by legendary cyclist Eddie Merckx, who is famous for winning the Tour de France, the Giro d’Italia, and several other world-class cycling events several times over. Merckx is also widely recognized as “the best cyclist in the world”.
An expected 120-strong starting lineup for the Tour de Mumbai will also see Australian riders Stuart O’Grady and Baden Cooke in action. Both riders are coming into the race with invaluable Tour de France experience, having contended for the overall points jersey in the famous road racing event.
O’Grady and Cooke will have ample opportunity to showcase their sprinting prowess, as the 2.8km Tour de Mumbai course will feature 36 laps with every 5th lap a sprint.
The event is part of India’s mass “cyclothon” program that aims to spread better awareness and appreciation of cycling throughout the cricket-crazy country. Pat McQuaid, the UCI president, adds that he is hoping to see more Indians get on bicycles as a result of the program.