Cyclists practise on Kadma-Sonari Link in Jamshedpur
Six hours of speed biking on a highway at dawn is only one aspect of their training. Buying veggies, cooking and managing house make up the rest.
Meet Jharkhand’s star cyclists, five of whom have been going through this daily grind ahead of a national meet in Haryana scheduled for October 24 to 27.
“We are going through a lot of hardship. Besides slogging from 5am to 11am, we also go to the market to buy vegetables and stock ration,” said Dilip Mahto of West Singhbhum’s Manoharpur, who along with four others have made NH-2 their practice ground.
As promising sportsmen, no one would expect them to be shabbily treated. But this is Jharkhand.
A cash-strapped Jharkhand Cycling Association (JCA) has left them in the lurch. Hence, Lakhan Hansda, Somu Hansda, Ram Kumar Bhatt, Navin Kumar and Dilip have had to arrange a preparatory camp in Dhanbad on their own.
They have also pitched in money from their own pockets to take care of lodging and food expenses during the 10-day practice session.
So, besides getting up at 4am and whizzing down NH-2, the cyclists shop at the local market, chop vegetables and tidy up their one-room quarter that they have taken on rent.
Rest is something they all need after gruelling practice. But that is a luxury they can’t afford while gearing up for the 18th National Road Cycling Championship.
Ram Kumar, who works as a private security guard in Jamadoba, has brought along his mother to cook food for all of them. “We bring vegetables and other essentials and she completes the formalities. We also clean our one-room home before leaving for practice. We are practising on our own, as the state cycling outfit has not provided us a mentor,” he said.
No wonder, Lakhan, Jharkhand’s lone international cyclist, is disappointed. But, he is also optimistic of bringing a medal at the Kurukshetra meet. “The practice sessions are turning out to be good. I am fit and raring to go. But I seldom get rest as we have to go to the market to buy vegetables. We also chop vegetables, as we don’t want to trouble Ram’s mother too much,” he said.
The cyclists, who have contributed Rs 1,000 each, have taken up a one-room house for Rs 500. They will be there till October 20. The rest of the money goes into taking care of daily expenses.
Naturally, meals are frugal, comprising roti, rice, dal and aloo bhujia. “Sometimes we get frustrated eating roti and aloo bhujia. Dal-bhaat is a regular lunch fixture. Once we had asked Ram’s mother to cook chicken,” said Navin of Jharia.
The remaining three members of the team — Suman Kumari of Jamshedpur, Narendra Hansda and Lakhiram Hansda (both from Damodih village in Potka block of East Singhbhum) — have not joined their camp and are practising at home.
All team members will meet in Jamshedpur on October 20 to leave for Kurukshetra the following day.
Lakhan, Ram and Navin won the 1,500m time-trial bronze for Jharkhand at the 34th National Games in 2011. While Lakhan is the proud owner of an imported cycle — a Fuji racing bike of Japanese make that was gifted by the Uranium Corporation of India — Ram Kumar and Navin have somehow made theirs workable.
But for Satbir Singh Sahota, secretary of JCA, the cyclists would not have been able to participate in the national meet. It was he who arranged their train tickets and also paid Rs 300 to each of them to get licences from Cycling Federation of India.
A former international cyclist, Sahota said he was trying to arrange for more funds from local transporters, some of whom were into cycling.
“I am aware that the money the players have pooled in will be over soon. I have contacted some transporters who have promised help,” he said.