The sight of cyclists tearing down the mountain slopes took his breath away. Not once, not twice. The goosebumps returned every single time Shiven visited Pandoh as a little boy, a picturesque Himachali village where his father was posted at the time. The vision became etched in the young impressionable mind, quietly setting the template for a thrill-a-minute career where toil, tears, sweat and joy would take turns to keep the pedal going.
“It was exhilarating to be on a bike downhill the first time. I loved the idea and the feeling and got hooked to the competitive spirit,” flashbacks India’s MTB Champion, trying to add perspective to an emotion that isn’t easy to capture in words.
The story begins back in 12th grade, when Shiven was torn between cycling, a newfound hobby, and the long term dream of flying a fighter jet. Today, one might say that the two time National champion – who has been donning the India colours since 2019 – has managed to achieve both. In a manner of speaking. Every time his MTB (Mountain Terrain Bike) waltzes up and down the Himalayan slopes he now calls his canvas, Shiven rises. And hits the clouds. Cloud nine, to be precise.
So, indeed, does the resolve to unfurl the Indian flag at the highest stage. “I aspire to take Indian MTB to new heights”, says the young man who in <YEAR?> became the first Indian MTB specialist to win at an UCI event in Pancharakoli near Wayanad in Kerala. The thrill of watching the Tricolour go up, as he accepted his medal, keeps playing on loop in his brain like it was yesterday. The intrepid champion is determined to recreate the ecstasy. Many more times.
The champ has been preparing for his place in the sun since his engineering days. Yes, Shiven was a bright lad with a knack for cracking competitive tests beyond just cycling contests – effortlessly juggling studies, exercise and sorties on the bike. While he loves to train solo, the heavens can sometimes lend a hand gently. And add the tailwind. Kurukshetra, where Shiven’s college is located, is also the cycling hub of the state of Haryana. And isn’t Mechanical, his engineering specialization, all about gears, moving parts and kinetic energy? You could, of course, dismiss the pattern as random happenstance. Those in the know, however, believe cosmic forces were working in stealth mode – conspiring to make big things happen.
MTB Shimla, Student Category, was Shiven’s first major victory. Like all firsts, the sweet, sweet aftertaste continues to linger. Somewhere along the way, he was noticed and endorsed by the Hero HASTPA team, a rare case of sponsorship at such a young age. Today, Shiven is also a Cannondale Athlete, and supported by Track and Trail.
The big moment, however, arrived in the February of 2021, with Shiven riding tall at the National MTB Championships in Gadag, Karnataka. The avid athlete clinched the gold in the U-23 event in just over 1 hour and 10 minutes, beating not only a trail of dogged rivals but a grueling schedule that sapped every ounce of his energy except the unbreakable will to triumph. There is a distinct glint in his eye as he relives that unforgettable day : “I had to compete in three events in 36 hours. I was blacking out on the trails on the downhill sections. I was lucky I did not crash, and I managed a silver. I recovered and got my first ever elite men’s National title.”
He didn’t stop there, of course. A second successive Cross Country Olympic crown was added to the collection as Shiven won the Nationals in Alandi, Pune, in October 2021. Notwithstanding distinguished peers like Kamlesh Rana and Khariksingh Adonis Tangpu, Shiven was unmistakably making the event his own.
His 12th spot at the Suncheon Asian Mountain Bike Championships (a 20.45 km Cross Country Olympic event hosted in Suncheon, South Korea, in the October of 2022) is another occasion that merits a shout out. And a hat-tip.
His helmet, now robustly decorated, sports several enviable feathers. Any favorites from the bunch of accolades earned over the years? Yes, as it turns out : MTB Kerala. “It attracts a lot of international competition every year”, explains Shiven helpfully.
For those acquainted with the steely determination beneath the disarming smile, the journey towards greatness has barely begun. More milestones beckon. “I am eager to win a medal for India at the continental level”, confesses the milestone man. He does not have to look far for inspiration either. Ten time world MTB champion Nino Schutter is a hero in his eyes. More accurately, a moving target in his crosshairs. Fellow nationals, too, keep fanning his fire. “I am driven by all the Indian athletes who have made the flag fly high at the Olympic Games, Asian Games, Commonwealth Games and other global
events.” Like most athletes, an Olympic medal remains the ultimate dream.
What got him here won’t take him there. Nobody knows better than Shiven that he needs to jam harder at the gym, hit the pedal with greater force. There’s good news for his fans. Shiven’s on it. Clocking the hard miles every day at the crack of dawn. Cranking the gear up for the next level of difficulty. The grind he puts himself through isn’t for the faint of heart. For this mountain boy from the tiny hamlet of Himachal who prefers to go without a surname, however, it is a sacred rite of passage that is now an inseparable part of him. “Cycling is lovely, refreshing and relaxing. It means everything to me. It
It tells a lot about life in general. It is a journey, and I am enjoying it.”
Like all greats, he has a vision for the sport, and his wishlist features more than just medals. He wants better facilities for Indian riders so that they can compete better internationally, and yearns for more awareness amongst the masses.
We have a feeling that will happen, sooner rather than later. The winning spirit, after all, is contagious. As the Tricolor goes up on Shiven again, and as the goosebumps return, the next India will rise.