Cycling has been a popular Sport for ages, compared with some of the other Sports in the country. Cycling, as a Sport, started in the 1950s and reached its climax in the 1960s with the Tour de Lanka and the ‘Deepa Charika’ Cycle tour. Riders of the calibre of Maurice Coomaravel, Anthony Symonds, A.M. Sumanaweera, [...]

The Sunday Times Sri Lanka

Pedal pushing badly in need of a shove


Cycling has been a popular Sport for ages, compared with some of the other Sports in the country. Cycling, as a Sport, started in the 1950s and reached its climax in the 1960s with the Tour de Lanka and the ‘Deepa Charika’ Cycle tour.

Riders of the calibre of Maurice Coomaravel, Anthony Symonds, A.M. Sumanaweera, Boniface Perera, Ervine Fernando, Kingsley Mendis, the Henderson brothers, N. Karunaratne and Leslie Rupasinghe came into the limelight through these events.

The now defunct ‘Gaalu Sawariya’ and the Tour de Air Force race were also very popular, with a number of top riders proving their capabilities in these events. Among them is the fastest sprinter in the South Asian region, Jeevan Jayasinghe, and several other top riders who have represented the Tri-forces and the police.

But unfortunately, Cycling is in decline, and the entire blame is on the former administration and the current officials of the Cycling Federation of Sri Lanka (CFSL). Some insist there is no future for Cycling in SL. We do not have local competitions. We do not participate in international competitions. CFSL officials are always in dispute. The Sports Yardstick analyses the good, the bad and the ugly side of the Sport with some of the professionals.

Bhuddika Warnakulasuriya
(Tour de Air Force Champ 2011, 2014)

We have a number of top riders but unable to showcase our talent and potential due to the lack of competition. This Sport which was very popular is now drifting away from the spectators. The Sport is now surviving because of the Tri-forces and the police. We do not have any competitions and the authorities are struggling to conduct the National championships without sponsors. Cycling clubs are now defunct, while those that do, exist only by name. There have been many occasions where officials came to power through false promises to riders. The Sport today, is at a very low ebb, mainly due to the poor administration of the current officials. The Sri Lanka Air Force is the only club which conducts its events as scheduled. As a result, many riders look forward to competing in this event. The CFSL is supposed to conduct a minimum of 5 events according to their schedule, but don’t see any major competition taking place, apart from the traditional events to mark Sinhala New Year. But these races are mostly for standard riders, while racing riders do not get a real chance to prove themselves. We have a National body unable to conduct its National championship. We have some veteran administrators within the CFSL but, they are more or likely for namesake. A common occurrence is the call for a National pool by the CFSL, only when an international event nears. Our riders do not get international exposure due to non participation in foreign Cycling events.

Rtd SDIG K.P.P. Pathirana
(Former President- Sri Lanka Cycling Interim Committee and CFSL 2003-2015)

Actually, I am not a rider or a champion in the Sport. I was a member of the Sri Lanka Schools Football Team in 1969 and a member of the Sri Lanka Youth Football Pool. I am a genuine Football player. I can remember there were many issues between Amal Suriyage and N. Karunaratne in 2000. As a result, I was appointed President of the Interim Committee in 2003, by then Sports Minister Johnston Fernando. Since then, I was the President of the Interim Committee and CFSL till 2015. Sri Lanka has produced some top riders in the calibre of Maurice Coomaravel, until Jeevan Jayasinghe emerged as the fastest sprinter in the South Asian region. I think the Sport developed a great amount during my tenure in office. There were a number of local events and were also able to compete in many international events as well, winning a couple of them as well. We won 5 Gold medals and 4 Silver medals at the SAG held in Colombo in 2006. After that, we have never been able to win a medal in the South Asian region. We also participated in the Asian Cycling Championships held in Malaysia, Indonesia and the UAE. I pioneered the President’s Cup Cycle Tour under 7 Stages in 2006. I also made sure that the coaches and referees also had all the facilities and overseas training to perform their tasks. I also introduced a new race titled ‘Sri Lanka Sawariya’ in 2004. Several foreign competitors participated in this event. I have been able to organise more than 13 events in some years.

The present administration is struggling to conduct even the National championships. This shows how weak the present Cycling administration is. Today, riders do not have local competitions or international competitions. We have not participated in an international event since the SAG in January 2016. Today, we see rival factions within the Cycling Federation in the limelight for the wrong reasons, instead of promoting the Sport in the country. We have not held the Annual General Meeting for the last 2 years. There are no audit reports. The officials always end up with a dispute, whenever they sit for a meeting. There were plenty of sponsors during my stewardship. But today, the sponsors are leaving as there are no competitions in the country. Sponsors always keep away whenever there are controversies within the association. The current set of administrators don’t a have good team. This is the reason why we always have disputes among officials. A good administrator should be able to move forward despite the pressure and the challenges. Today, we do not see a similar situation. The Velodrome track was constructed at the Mahinda Rajapaksa Sports Complex in Diyagama, at a cost of Rs 60 million, under my supervision. But I did not have direct involvement with the construction work. This was done by the Mahinda Rajapaksa Sports Foundation, with the support of a US expert. But unfortunately, it was removed from the complex due to some technical faults. We can move forward while competing in the Cycling track events. There are 7 Velodrome tracks in India. This is why India have made vast strides in the sport in the recent past.

Nishanthe Piyasena
(Secretary- Modern Pentathlon Federation of Sri Lanka and former Secretary- CFSL)

I strongly believe that, to administer any Sport, you need, not only knowledge of that particular Sport but also, you need to be passionate about it. Competitive Sports and leisure Sports are entirely two different areas. When you talk about Cycling in SL, we need to look at it not only as a competitive Sport but also, as a leisure Sport, if you really need to develop it as a Sport. I personally feel the CFSL has been moving away from those who are really passionate about it, and people who Cycle as a leisure Sport. The CFSL does not have any interest in welcoming people who are determined to develop and spread Cycling in various segments.

As we know, Cycling is one of the best Sports to prevent non-communicable diseases, apart from its benefits from being environment-friendly. Recently, my Cycling club- SPRINT Sports Club organised a workshop, with the objective of ‘Cycling for a Better Life’. It was a very successful event, showing that, many people were seeking more awareness about this issue. Under the above topic, I still believe that, if any Sport needs to develop to reach its highest potential at an elite level, it needs to start off with building interest among people through fun activities. Current officials of the CFSL should be aware that, the lack of attention given to these leisure and pleasure segments resulted in the dearth of new and young talents. When I was CFSL Secretary from 2007-2010, we were able to unearth new Athletes and talented youngsters from various corners of the country and build them up to become National level athletes. At the same time, our race calendar was filled with year-round elite races, standard races, talent search programmes and development workshops. We managed to increase the number of elite Racing Cyclists to 300 and Standard Cyclists to more than 100 during that period. We also participated in many regional championships such as the Asian Championships, South Asian Championships and major games such as South Asian and Asian Games. Not restricting only to competitions, we were fortunate to organise the first ever Mountain Biking course, with the blessings of United Cycling International (UCI). We also gave overseas training programmes for National coaches at UCI. More importantly, we conducted regular Council meetings, ExCo meetings, maintained proper accounts in time and submitted all reports needed to our stakeholders. The secret behind the success during that time was excellent teamwork and unity within the ExCo and all Sub-Committees of the CFSL. As President, SDIG K.P.P. Pathirana gave a proper leadership during that period, amidst constant criticism from a very vocal opposition. However, we took these in our stride and took strength from them to achieve our objectives.

What I see today is the lack of teamwork and unity within the CFSL, which has led to a drop in SL’s Cycling standards, both locally and internationally. Many top Cyclists, as a result, are affected due to the lack of races, development programmes, workshops and overseas exposure. The sponsors too have lost interest and confidence in Cycling. This is the major challenge that the CFSL needs to immediately address. Apart from this, regular meetings on time, audited accounts and non-resolution of conflicts among the clubs and associations, are also areas that are hindering the smooth functioning of the CFSL. I believe, to turn things around for Cycling in SL, we would need a strong-willed administration in place. For this, we will not only need elite National Cyclists, but also skillful administrators.

Dr. Amal Harsha de Silva
(President- CFSL)

I don’t think we were able to obtain the desired results in Cycling during the last two years. But, overall, there has been an improvement in the Sport. There have been various criticisms from those who are directly and indirectly involved in the promotion of Cycling in SL. I can confirm that we are currently considered a major force in the South Asian region. This was very clear, considering the fact that, we won 2 Gold medals, 2 Silver medals and 3 Bronze medals at the South Asian Games in 2016. We were only second to India in the overall standings. In addition, our Jeevan Jayasinghe is the best sprinter in the South Asian region. This was the first time that SL had won an award of this nature. I think we are currently maintaining a very good standard in the Sport. However, I must state that, we have decided to reduced the amount of participation at international events, to reduce the cost for the CFSL and the Government.

In the past, we have experienced many competitors returning without participating at international competitions, while others have taken this opportunity to stay behind in that country, after participating. These incidents have tarnished SL’s image, while it is an added concern to the authorities. As a result, we have decided against sending Cyclists to some top Asian and European countries.

We have decided to revive the Tour de Lanka race after a lapse of 20 years, and will definitely conduct it this year. I am now having discussions regarding this event with a good sponsor, and have the backing of the Government as well. We are in the process of finalising the dates for this event.

We conducted a total of 28 Open races in 2016, but could not conduct the National championships. Instead, we conducted a good Club tournament. We are aware that we cannot replace a national championship with a club event. Our main goal is to develop the Sport in the country. We are now conducting events at National level and at inter-house school level. The authorities have also allocated a special Cycling tracks alongside the main road in Kohuwela and Piliyandala. This is a big victory for the CFSL as well as for the riders.

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