Bandra’s early morning joggers were pleasantly surprised on World Environment Day. 77 cyclists, who were participants of a city cyclathon, rode their way along the Bandstand promenade in the wee hours of the morning. A growing community in Mumbai, these city cyclists wanted to send out a message. “Save petrol! I am a green person and have already forced my dad to sell his bike,” says 16-year-old Bhagyashree Sawant. She goes on to elaborate about her dreams of becoming professional cyclist. All set for the big race, Sawant declares such events promote cycling in the city.
At the starting point, cyclists from all over the city had gathered. There were the national champions, the novices and passers-by who had been asked to participate in the competition. But while some Mumbaikars decided to spend World Environment Day doing nothing out-of-the-mundane, these cyclists were out, as early as 4 am just so that they could be part of the cyclathon.
The pedal enthusiasts met at the Taj Land’s End and cycled their way along the Bandstand promenade. National cycling medalist Pankaj Marlesha was participating too. He was ready with his Rs2lakh cycle. Ask him where he practised. “You expect us to practise on Mumbai roads? Obviously you won’t have any Indian participants in the Tour de France!” he says. Marlesha owns a cycle shop and is lucky enough to have the best industry equipment and gear. But unlike him, there are others who save just so that they can follow their passion to manoeuver a human-powered vehicle.
Bandra residents Jenell Fonseca, Pritika and Sherie Rebello were excited too. It was the first time they were participating in a race where they could use their cycles. They speak in chorus, “We were cycling when the organisers told us to come and join. We are here for fun.”
But unlike the Bandra girls, some cyclists had come to win the cyclathon. Surprisingly, the cyclathon champion who emerged wasn’t a professional cyclist. 21-year-old Rohan Gala, an engineering student from IIT couldn’t believe he had left all the others behind. “Are you sure I won?” he asks. The close finish saw a few grumpy contestants too. Some said there were too many potholes which made it difficult for them to balance their bikes. Others claimed Rohan won because he was used to riding around the IIT campus.