“Give me a moment to watch my son ride,” says a polite Linda Wibberley, watching 19-year-old cyclist Benjamin swing by on his bike.
Mother and son are here as part of the Australian team to participate in the test event that precedes the Commonwealth Games at the Indira Gandhi Cycling Velodrome.
While 50-year-old Linda is the team manager, Benjamin is part of the Elite men Keirin team.
Though this is the duo’s first time here, Linda says her connect to India goes back a long way. “My mother is from India. She was born in Lahore in 1945. As this is my first visit, I have brought her ashes to disperse in the Ganges, but it seems impossible since we have a tight schedule,” she says.
Linda tries to steal a glimpse of Benjamin, who, in an attempt to overtake a rider, loses his balance but just manages to avoid a crash.
The news of Chris Hoy— a four-time Olympic gold medallist— pulling out of the Games has disappointed many, including Linda. “It’s a shame he couldn’t make it. But people have their own priorities.”
And for once there’s praise for a Games venue.
“It’s wonderful. The track is fast and smooth, though it needs a finishing touch,” says Linda. “Frankly, we were pretty surprised. With tension in the air between the two countries, the issue of security, it was on second thoughts that we decided to come. “It seems we took the right decision.”
A former rider herself, Linda thinks that Indian riders need to hone their skills a little more. “As a rule, the first rider in the bunch is supposed to flick his elbow as a signal of breaking away from the bunch and let the train through,” says Linda. “But the Indians take us by surprise and sometimes pose danger for the fellow riders.” While India is not exactly known for producing cycling champions, the road traffic is famous around the world. If you can drive in India, you can drive anywhere.
“Nobody seems to be using indicators. All they seem to know is honking,” says Linda. “We were scared on the first day and had only one thought, ‘If that is how they drive normally, God knows what’s in store for us at the event.”