Naveen John is going places on his cycle, faster than most on a plane. The Bengaluru boy who is India’s first pro cyclist was in the city recently to launch the country’s first Elite Amateur Racing Team of cyclists, of which he is both director and rider. He’s also counting down to the Asian Cycling Championships for which he will head to Bahrain at the end of the month. While on the business side, the athlete runs a coaching space called Wattbombs Coaching and a brand-agnostic project called the Indian Pro Cycling Project for training national-level cyclists. Interestingly enough, this passion-turned-full time career of his was discovered while Naveen was pursuing an Electrical Engineering course at Purdue University in the United States. Instead of doing homework, he and his friends would load their bikes on the roof of a station and drive to the next state for a race!
Here’s a glimpse of the road ahead and how to handle those handlebars under pressure:
Butterflies for Bahrain?
I’ve done the work to be in the best shape I can possibly be in for the Asian Cycling Championships. Apart from training, I spend a lot of time visualising every minute leading-up and during the race, so everything seems like deja-vu on the day, and the calmness from that allows me to perform to my maximum.
The world and beyond
In 2016, I had the opportunity to ride with a professional racing team in Australia, as the first cyclist from India at the World Championships . There were a ton of challenges I had to navigate on my own — from Visa paperwork, travel logistics, organising stay while abroad, sorting out travel/medical/racing insurance, fundraising, sponsor activation responsibilities. And while I enjoyed the challenges, it put a limit on how much I could commit to training and performing in my sport. So when Ciclo Cafe offered to support me and asked me if I’d be interested in directing and mentoring a crop of riders alongside my personal goals, it was an easy decision to make.
Cycling in Indiana vs India
Having ridden in the US, Australia, Europe , and in India, I’d say that cyclists in India are the most resilient cyclists anywhere. I mean, there are a million reasons not to ride your bike in an Indian city, but yet, there’s thousands of us these days in Tier 1 and 2 cities who find ways to make it happen — waking-up before the sun comes out, donning our safety lights and cycling kits, navigating our cities, less than ideal infrastructure, knocking out 20-100+km before breakfast.
5 am training days
Building up to the Asian championships, I have been doing simulations of the race. That means a
5 am wake-up call, and covering 100 km in about two hours 10 minutes, at an average of 47-48 kmph. So that’s had me buckled. My
typical training day is not very different. I train 15 to 25 hours a week, and off the bike, I also do strength training and yoga.
— Sonali Shenoy