This is the story of a young rider from India, with cycling dreams. Who ventured, matured, put in the work, fell hard, persisted, and with the support of family and friends and coaches and mentors, achieved a small bit of Indian Cycling history last week at the 2018 Indian National Road Cycling Championships

Aman Punjani only found racing 4 years ago at community level events in Hyderabad. A year later, in 2015, he spent a summer training in Belgium, but came back with not much to show for. However, a seed was planted after witnessing the level of competitive cycling outside India first hand.

In 2016, he finished school and took a leap of faith and spent a gap year committing to training and racing, with support from his family, and especially his father -- Salim.

In 2017, as part of Ciclo Team Racing, he headed back to Belgium, a mentally and physically stronger rider, with purpose. The upcoming 2017 National Champs was going to be proof to himself, that he was the best in the country.

In 2017, he won a silver in the U-23 Individual Time Trial. Not the color he wanted, and so he was left wanting. The next day, within 250 meters of the finish line of the 120 kilometer U-23 road race, he sets-up for the sprint. He’s the best sprinter in the field and is a safe bet for the win.

But then, a touch of wheels, and it all came crashing down - years’ worth of work, sacrifice, and single-mindedness. But all that was real in that moment was his broken clavicle and the physical pain of bone digging into muscle in the haze of a mild concussion. He was barely able to hold consciousness from the pain, and was overwrought with a nausea from the uncertainty of the situation that probably felt like trying to stand on water. His dad and he made the long drive home to Hyderabad with Aman heavily sedated.

In less than a month, he would start another journey -- leaving home and beginning college in the US to pursue a degree in Psychology. Deep down, the dream of one day winning a National title, and attempting to ride into the world of professional cycling outside India quietly remained.

After a year in college, learning to adjust to a new social circle, the challenges of training in a new environment, and self-doubt as to whether he would be able to find a place in the sport, he lined-up for some unfinished business at the 2018 Nationals last week.

Despite a point to prove to himself, he was relaxed, his dad and mum by his side this time. Though he planned, prepared and strategized, things were far from perfect. But he managed to flawlessly execute this time.

And just like that, he was Double National Champion -- in the Individual Time Trial and the Road Race. A 4-year dream realized in a fleeting moment.

Naveen John

Naveen John is an Indian Cyclist based out of Bangalore. In 2016, he was the first Indian to ride for a Continental registered team – the erstwhile State of Matter-MAAP racing team in Melbourne. In the same year, he and a compatriot became the first Indians in well over a decade, to start (the ITT) at the UCI World Championships.