‘We can beat India in cycling’

National champion Ali explains how he wants to help Pakistani athletes become better

Natasha Raheel June 27, 2020
DEDICATION AND SCIENCE: In just two years Ali emerged as a champion, thanks to training smartly, getting coaching from abroad and making sure that science is employed in the process of becoming an athlete. PHOTO COURTESY: ALI ILYAS

KARACHI: "If there is one discipline we are better than the rest of the countries even India is road racing and Pakistan has so much potential in it that we can make a huge mark internationally," national cycling champion Ali Ilyas exclaims proudly, as he calls himself an experiment for the most part to be successful in cycling.

On breezy Karachi nights, Ali along with his fellow teammates from Crank Addicts train, while Ali himself had started cycling late and finished seventh in 2018 in the national circuit.

In just two years he emerged as a champion, thanks to training smartly, getting coaching from an England-based coach online and making sure that science is employed in the process of becoming an athlete, unlike the traditional ways that are applied among the athletes in Pakistan.

Just recently the Pakistan Cycling Federation have confirmed that Pakistan will be taking part in the UCI World Cycling Championship that will take place in September in Switzerland.

But Ali's statement about how far Pakistan can go in road racing came in May, as the cycling at night had picked up as a trend during the lockdown in Karachi and many took up cycling as recreation.

The Sindh Cycling Association official Omer Khalid would say that the sales for cycles in Karachi had increased during the lock down as people were looking for some kind of activity.

However, the ramazan cycling was a thrill for many and the trend has stuck by as many cyclists are continuing night cycling in DHA, according to the SCA President Anjum Ayub.

The idea has been to make cycling an accessible sport, and the newly elected official and his administration will be working hard on making sure that the cyclists come first.

The night out for cycling looks different for the recreationalist and then for champions like Ali. His team employs structured training and have their equipment that can quantify their time during the sessions, while he tells that it is called "wattage" as to how much energy is put into every peddle and the temp that can be measured and controlled by the athletes if only one applies science and takes care of the regime, which has been unheard of previously.

"It has been a brilliant journey. I took one day at a time. I thought big and early on I thought why can't I achieve this. I had finished seventh in 2018 at the national championship, but then I took a step back and I did analytics, I got a coach, it seemed like a four-year plan to become a champion, but I did it in two years , saved further two of my life because I applied analytics and science. I'm a businessman, and I can tell that no amount of money can ever beat the feeling of winning that title," Ali tells The Express Tribune about his journey, but he is not selfish about his goals and his intention is to help the cyclists on the national circuit who have been cycling for years, full-time with departments, but do not have the exposure, means and knowledge to improve.

"In the beginning everybody made fun of me, they thought who am I? What am I doing, but I wanted to help," said Ali.

Ali has been an athlete from an early age. He first started with tennis, then played football and badminton for six years before switching to cycling.

"I got the best coach at my club too for badminton but I never had that kind of technique or that kind of fluidity because I started badminton late. I was a nobody, I survived through the sport because of my fitness levels and stamina. And here cycling was a fit for me, after I had quit badminton, because cycling doesn't need talent, it is an endurance sport, but sports like golf, tennis and others are art," explained Ali.

He said that he has always been competitive and wanted to participate in a race, however cycling was introduced to him by his wife, and slowly but surely his passion for cycling increased.

‘We can beat India’

Ali being a seasoned athlete and Crank Addicts captain understands the business and technical aspects of sports, and that is something he feels that he has capitalised on, while he wants Pakistan to take road racing seriously.

Although according to Ayub and Khalid, cycling by no means is a cheap sport but SCA's aim is to at least get sponsorships for 11 cyclists and train them for to be the best at the national circuit, whereas Lyari remains the hotspot for talent in Karachi.

However, Ali feels that the future of cycling for Pakistanis is in road racing, that is also an Olympic discipline.

"We can't compete with India for example, where they are in badminton, in men's women's way ahead, even in hockey, but road cycling is still that one discipline that we are ahead, we still have the edge," gushes Ali.

"With all my heart I know I have been an experiment and with science, without spending even a fraction of money that we do in other things, we can produce great results. I was just born into cycling three years ago, but look at the cyclists from Quetta, I feel the methodology that I've used, we can help them.

I can't do more than two hours of cycling per day but the cyclists with departments have all day, they have the time it's just a fundamental change they need to make. We can easily win Asian medals and then other international medals, because the cyclists that are coming from Quetta and mountainous regions are already so strong and have capacity much more than ordinary cyclists. I just want to help them," said Ali.

He reiterated that India have excelled at velodrome , but the athletes from Gilgit-Baltistan and Quetta, who are coming from higher alleviation regions have advantage and they are being accustomed to ideal environment for cycling in Quetta for example, whereas Quetta has given great cyclists to Pakistan already, however, now there is a need for investing smartly in them.

"It takes around Rs300 million for velodrome, but for road racing it will only take Rs100,000 per rider, all they would need in power metre, their equipment for knowing measuring their vitals, the federation do not have those funds but if let’s say even six riders are prepared for road race and investment is made for them, it can give us results at South Asian Games too," said Ali.

Ali was also selected for the Asian Championship  but due to Covid-19 the championship was called off.

He attributes the success in cycling to Bikeistan that brought a competitive aspect while there is a strong sense of community, even during the Covid-19 lock down as people took up cycling and new cyclists are welcome.

"My request is that I have been a beneficiary of the communities like Critical Mass Karachi, the movements the social rides, community is an inherent aspect of cycling and now my teammates at Crank Addicts too are all married, we have our lives besides cycling too, but we are winning though broad experience and training smart.

My question is if we can do it in a short amount of time, me and my younger brother who is a junior champion, then why we can’t have the same for a kid from Quetta. They need structured training, because it takes away the subjectivity from it all and it is all quantifiable, and that can be our road to success in road racing," concludes Ali.

Facebook Conversations


Replying to X

Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.

For more information, please see our Comments FAQ

Load Next Story