The newly-formed Hyderabad Racing League wants leisure riders to get competitive

A small group of friends, each one of them an avid cyclist, felt the urge to do something to revive competitive racing in the city. In recent years, Hyderabad has witnessed a surge in the number of cyclists — those cycling to work and others partaking in long distance leisure rides on weekends. Bike stations and dedicated tracks for cycling are also reality in select areas of the city. But a few saw the need to take cycling to the next level.

“We floated an informal group and sent the word out about our first Individual Time Trial race. The first ride had 40 participants, a sizeable number in Hyderabad,” says Raman Garimella, who has now christened this initiative Hyderabad Racing League. The others part of the team are Gaurav Duggal and Vignan.

The first race was about 5.5 km around KBR Park; the second was an 8km stretch near the financial district, in the vicinity of Indian School of Business and Microsoft, Gachibowli. The third one on April 12 was again around KBR Park. Raman’s team hopes to conduct a longer race in May. These are small but significant steps in reviving Hyderabad’s racing culture.

Hyderabad has had its share of well known racers — Maxwell Trevor, Russel Turner, R.N. Akhtar, Kendall Turner and Glen Trevor to name a few. And then came the lull. In the near past, the Hyderabad Bicycling Club tried to revive racing in 2010. “Around the same time, Bangalore also began to conduct amateur races. In four years, Bangalore has surged far ahead. They have a racing calendar and one would find at least 100 people taking part in races within the city and teams send participants to national-level races as well. We could have been in that position too, had the racing culture not died down,” laments Raman.

One of the finest racers to have come out of Hyderabad, Maxwell Trevor, feels HRL is a step in the right direction, though he is unsure how far a racing league outside the purview of Cycling Federation of India or the AP Cycling Association would help cyclists looking at a long-term career in the sport. “A lot of politics within these bodies turned out to be detrimental for the sport. If a cyclist wants to compete in recognised national and international races, he has to go through the Cycling Federation of India,” he points out.

Raman is optimistic that HRL can chart a good course for itself and hints at parallel examples of races conducted by sporting brands and other private players within India. “Hopefully Hyderabad can be part of such races,” he says.

Trevor feels movements like HRL need to be encouraged. Having coached Raman and his friends Aditya Mehta and Aditya Shetty for a while, he lauds their commitment to the sport. “When I served as a coach, I came across dedicated youngsters for whom cycling was also a means to win medals, earn some money and a government job. But these boys, BITS alumni armed with engineering degrees, were going the extra length and finding time for cycling irrespective of their demanding jobs,” he mentions.

Raman says with a smile, “I was surprised when I learnt that someone like Trevor was in Hyderabad. In the beginning, he was reluctant to coach us thinking we were not worthy of being his students. But we didn’t give up.”

At the moment, HRL works with minimum overheads. “Towards the end of the race, we pass a hat around and people contribute. We use this amount to meet commuting expenses for the spirited volunteers who help us during the race and the rest goes into organising the next race. From cyclists’ point of view, they get to accumulate points with their performance in each race,” says Raman.

How the league works

Participants should bring their own cycle, wear helmets and safety equipment. Those who don’t own a cycle can rent one from the Hyderabad Bicycling Club's bike station at Gachibowli.

The races are open to everyone; there is no entry fee. Organisers will brief participants on potential traffic bottlenecks.

There will be volunteers on the route for guidance. A doctor will be on board and first aid will be available.