More than 150 cyclists from 16 countries will compete for top honours as well as Olympic berths in the sixth edition of the Track Asia Cup which begins here from Monday.
Two European countries — Latvia and Slovakia — will also take part in the UCI (International Cycling Union) class I accredited event to be held at the cycling velodrome at IG Sports Complex here.
The three-day meet will serve as a qualifying event for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, as well as for the World Championships.
India will be represented by a 21-member team, with Deborah Harold and world junior number one Esow Alben leading the women’s and men’s challenge respectively.
Currently, the 17-year-old Esow is ranked number one in men’s sprint and men’s keirin in the UCI junior world rankings. He is competing in the senior category in this event.
The 21-member team includes six cyclists from the Khelo India Academy, which is managed jointly by the Sports authority of India and Cycling Federation of India. The aim is to provide exposure of international competition to the young aspiring cyclists of the country.
The other participating countries are Kazakhstan, Hong Kong, Uzbekistan, UAE, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Iran, China, Myanmar, Singapore, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Latvia and Slovakia.
“Since this being an UCI class I accredited event, European countries have also sent their entries and so they are taking part in the Track Asia Cup. This is an Olympic qualifying event and competition will be tough as the European teams are also here,” CFI chiarman Onkar Singh told PTI.
“Any country can take part in any Olympic qualifying event, even in a different continent. That is why European countries are here and we cannot deny them. In earlier editions also, there were European countries,” he added.
The Olympic qualification process started in July last year and will go on till February next year.
India’s main strength will be the junior team led by Esow, currently ranked number 1 in the kierin and sprint event in the UCI world ranking. Indian juniors in the sprint team event are also ranked number 2 and this makes the home country a tough team to beat.
The junior sprint team, which won a gold recently in the World Junior Championship, will be the star attraction, while Esow, who secured three medals in the same championships, will lead the Indian challenge.
The senior women will have tough competition against the cyclists from Hong Kong, Malaysia and Thailand. Deborah and Aleena Reji will compte in team sprint event.
“This competition will give a chance to our junior cyclists to compete with Asia’s best and the exposure achieved here may be encashed for future events. Esow, who is participating in the senior level, will be tested in his journey to the senior category,” Onkar said.