MUMBAI, India (VN) – Racing in India is quite unlike anything the top pros have ever seen before.
The sport is in its infancy in India, but nearly everyone sees the unlimited potential of the sport in India’s rapidly-growing economy and its budding middle class. Officials hope to expand the series to three days of racing in 2012 to eventually create India’s first stage race over the next few years.
Two races this weekend broke new ground as Indian cycling saw its first rolling road closure as part of Friday’s first-ever international road stage and a troupe of pros got a taste of “real” India after riding across the open highways of Maharasthra in a symbolic training ride Saturday in what’s cycling’s final frontier.
Here are some photographs from Sunday’s Tour de Mumbai, when Robbie Hunter (RadioShack) out-kicked Elia Viviani (Liquigas-Cannondale) to the win.
Tour of Mumbai 2011: Riders rolled to the start for the Mumbai race from their nearby hotel. Things went smoothly as a police escort shut down traffic to allow the pros to get to the start line along Mumbai's waterfront on time. Last year, JJ Haedo won on a similar course in the first edition of the Tour de Mumbai.
Tour of Mumbai 2011: Riders rolled to the start for the Mumbai race from their nearby hotel. Things went smoothly as a police escort shut down traffic to allow the pros to get to the start line along Mumbai’s waterfront on time. Last year, JJ Haedo won on a similar course in the first edition of the Tour de Mumbai.
Tour of Mumbai 2011: Liquigas-Cannondale and members of the Austrian-registered KTM team sign in before the start of the race. Two ProTeam squads lined up this year, with RadioShack and Liquigas, and race officials are hoping to attract up to five ProTeam squads next year and expand the race to three days, with a likely race around Pune.
Tour of Mumbai 2011: The biggest media draw was the tourism minister from the Maharashtra region, in part because all the photographers knew who he was. The minister is one of the key backers of the event and are hoping to use the race to promote the region’s tourist sights and increase awareness about the benefits of biking among India’s booming middle and upper classes.
Tour of Mumbai 2011: Team Type 1’s Joe Eldridge lines up before the start of the race. Team Type 1 had a rider in the day’s main breakaway and used the Indian races to prepare for the revival of the Tour of South Africa, where the team is headed on an overnight flight. Eldridge is one of six riders on Team Type 1 racing with type-1 diabetes and helped found the team.
Tour of Mumbai 2011: Cheerleaders helped animate the crowd as the pack rolled out for a ceremonial opening spin of the circuit.
Tour of Mumbai 2011: A Bollywood actress showed up to help generate some publicity for the race. Mumbai is considered the home of Bollywood and is an important part of the Indian film industry, which sold 3.2 billion tickets in 2002.
Tour of Mumbai 2011: Robbie Hunter sits on his handlebars after the race was stopped to give officials more time to clear the roads to assure rider safety. The event resumed about an hour later and Hunter went on to win the race.
Tour of Mumbai 2011: This couple rode their tandem with about 2,500 others in a fun ride Sunday morning before the start of the pro race. A few stragglers remained on the course, with one mountain biker ending up provoking a minor crash in the bunch in the opening lap. The race later resumed without incident.
Tour of Mumbai 2011: The race is on: a group of nine riders opened up a one-minute gap. Liquigas and RadioShack missed the move and were forced to lead the chase to set up the mass sprint.
Tour of Mumbai 2011: Elia Viviani and Robbie Hunter wait to go onto the podium after finishing second and first, respectively. Hunter won his first race since joining RadioShack and Viviani won the combined prize after taking second Sunday and first Friday in Nashik.
Tour of Mumbai 2011: Fans smile after the race. With the world’s second-largest population of nearly 1.2 billion people, cycling’s potential of India is tremendous both as a sport as well as a potential source of sponsorship dollars of professional teams. Tata Systems already co-sponsors Garmin-Cervelo and more Indian multi-nationals are sure to take interest as cycling continues to grow worldwide.