Cycling has never figured in the list of priorities, when it comes to sports in India. However, if effort yields medals, the national team is guaranteed of a rich haul.
Now that the drama surrounding their new cycles has died down, and the 'will they, won't they' questions have been answered, the team is hitting the road hard.
In the past one year, each of them has covered enough distance to circumnavigate the globe.
"Now that the competition is upon us, we have increased the intensity of training. There is no more weight-training, it is just a question of the cyclist becoming one with his bike. Normally in training, we cover 140-160 km at an average speed of 32-34 kmph. Now, the tempo has been upped to around 40 kmph. The team is fit and raring to go," head coach, Chayan Chowdhary, told HT on Monday.
The 27 riders, many from Punjab and the North-East, have been training at the Noida Expressway, which will be the venue for the individual road time trial events. They have also had time at the Yamuna Velodrome, which will host the track races.
The field for the cycling events is extremely competitive, even though a number of world and Olympic champions have pulled out. Australia, England and Malaysia are countries where cycling is a popular sport. To bag a medal, India will have to punch well above their weight.
"Realistically, if we win one or two medals, it will be huge for us. A lot also depends on the international riders who have come, which is something we will know on the race days," said Chowdhary.
"I am hoping for a top-ten finish for Indians in the road race," said Amandeep, a rider from Punjab. The only realistic medal hope comes from the women's team pursuit squad, which contains two of India's most decorated riders, Mahitha Mohan and Rameshori Devi.
Onkar Bikram Singh said the performance tests held three days ago had yielded positive results.
"We broke many of the existing national records, including the individual pursuit and team pursuit, and we are looking to better these times in competition.
"The team is getting stronger, and we hope for our best-ever performance in front of the home crowd. Whether we win a medal or not, we want our performances to show that cycling is a great sport, one that has a bright future in India," said Bikram, the fastest Indian on two wheels.
Men's Individual Pursuit
Women's 500m time trial
Men's 1000m time trial
O Bikram Singh