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Balewadi Velodrome: Snakes on the cycle track, medals in the bank

Despite being state’s only velodrome, authorities are not willing to renovate the venue

pune Updated: Jan 14, 2018 22:28 IST
Ashish Phadnis
Ashish Phadnis
Hindustan Times, Pune
Balewadi,Velodrome,Snakes
Despite the best efforts of the cycling community, authorities have completely neglected the maintenance of Balewadi velodrome. The venue is almost in ruins now with broken galleries and animals roaming on its premises. (HT PHOTO)

Maharashtra cyclists recently won the overall championship in the recently held National Track Cycling Championship bagging 72 points. This was biggest achievement in the cycling paradigm for the state as for the first time, the Maharashtra team had won the MTB National Championship, National Road Championship and now, the National Track Championship, in-a-row. But more than this achievement, what needs to be commended is that the state cyclist managed to perform well even though they severally lack the necessary infrastructure for efficient training sessions.

When HT visited the site, we found a snake (right) freely slithering on the cycle track. (HT PHOTO)

“For MTB and road events, you don’t need much infrastructure for training. But for track events, you must get training in a velodrome and in Maharashtra, currently, there is only one velodrome, which is in Balewadi. But due to negligence, the velodrome is in an abysmal state and cannot be used for practice,” said Pratap Jadhav, secretary of the Cycling Association of Maharashtra.

State cyclists earned six gold medals, seven silver and seven bronze medals to gain the top spot at the National Track Cycling Championship. They were followed by Kerala, who finished with 58 points. Their cyclists won three gold, eight silver and seven bronze medals. In the MTB Championship held in Pune in September 2017, the state players had won eight gold, seven silver and two bronze medals, while in the road championship held in Karnataka in October, the state cyclists returned with five gold, one silver and one bronze medal.

The velodrome, which was built in 1994, has underwent few renovations in the past 23 years but has largely remained neglected as no major cycling event has been held at the venue after the 1994 National Games. During the Commonwealth Youth Games in 2008, the venue was used as a media centre. Though few cyclists in the Krida Prabodhini use it for basic training, the venue has always been overlooked by the authorities.

“We have been conducting a follow-up on the renovation for the past few years. We have even sent a proposal to chief minister Devendra Fadanvis and are hoping that this time, it will be approved,” said Jadhav.

The renovation of the track would cost around ₹2 crores and will take at least six to seven months to be completed.

“The cyclists who win medals at state tournaments get an opportunity to train at the Indian camp. Only they get the best available facilities. Fortunately, this time, we had a good number of state cyclists at the Indian camp and it has reflected in the state’s performance. But no such facility is available for the rest of the cyclists in the state. We have been demanding for a renovation for many years now, but no action has been taken,” said international cyclist Rutuja Satpute.

“Our cyclists are training against all odds and are winning medals at national and international tournaments. Now it’s the duty of the Maharashtra government to boost their morale. The current success at the national tournament has motivated others and it’s high time to have a proper velodrome in Pune,” she said.

With proper efforts we can boost cycling in India, says Pravin Patil

The support from the Giant Starkenn Sports Pvt Ltd had turned out to be the biggest boost for the Maharashtra team. The cycling manufacture brand has not only sponsored the entire team, but had also provided quality cycles, kits and spare parts to the cyclists, which helped them perform better.

Pravin Patil, managing director and chief executive officer of Giant Starkenn Sports said, “If proper efforts are taken, we can achieve a lot in cycling. We will support the Maharashtra Cycling Team in all possible ways and the recent success proves that we are progressing in the right direction.”

“Our aim is to host maximum events in Pune and have already conducted a national MTB here. If the venue in Balewadi is renovated, it will be a huge boost for cycling. Also, if the Cycling Federation of India decides to conduct Indian camps here, we will surely give all our support,” he said.

The velodromes in India

Only 12 cities in India currently posses national-level velodromes. The indoor wooden track in Indira Gandhi Sports Complex, New Delhi, was built for the Commonwealth Games, 2010, and is used for India camps on a regular basis. Apart from this, Amritsar, Hyderabad, Jabalpur, Jaipur, Trivandrum, Imphal, Ranchi, Guwahati, Ludhiana and Pune have standard an 333.33m outdoor concrete track, while Patiala and Bikaner have an 500m outdoor concrete track.

First Published: Jan 14, 2018 22:22 IST