In the recent OCBC Cycle South East Asia Speedway Championships which took place last weekend at the Singapore Sports Hub, underdogs Philippines shocked the favourite and two time defending champion Malaysia to take the title with an ingenious stroke of tactical nous.
Do or die finish between Philippines and Malaysia
Philippines captain George Luis Oconer had pulled away with Malaysia’s Muhammad Fauzan Bin Ahmad Lutfi to form an unassailable lead at the front of the pack, leaving their team mates Ronald Nozelo Oranza and Sofian Nabil Omar bin Mohd Bakri riding behind with the chasing pack to set up a do-or-die sprint finish on the last straight.
As the riders made the last turn, Oranza made the gamble pay off as he turned on the jets and outpaced the group to clinch the victory for the Philippines in a heart-pumping and extremely close finale to the South East Asia Speedway Championships.
The Philippines team had completed the race in 21 minutes 04.90 seconds. This was mere split seconds ahead of Malaysia, who had clocked a time of 21 minutes and 05 seconds.
Philippines did not expect to win as they were underdogs
Said Virgilio Espiritu, 41, the Assistant Coach of the Philippines national cycling team, We did not expect to win because Malaysia is very strong and in the records, they have been dominating all the cycling races in the region. So we were surprised but very happy that we won.”
He added, “We were the underdogs but our coach had the right strategy – which was to choose the rider with the right feeling at the moment to do the final sprint. The rider who was initially designed to do so had already done two sprints in the qualifying stages and the semi finals and he didn’t feel okay to do another one. So we changed rider and had another rider to do the sprint in the final and that paid off for us.”
Young upstarts TWC Racing win Speedway Club Championships
In the OCBC Cycle Speedway Club Championships, the young upstarts from TWC Racing emerged as the winners, with an impressive time of 17 minutes and 53.2 seconds in the final.
Formed in January this year, the young team, with an average age of 22 years, shocked many with their cycling prowess as they overcame a stacked field of 15 teams.
Despite taking part in their inaugural Speedway Championships, they beat early championship favourites and defending champions Specialzied Roval Mavericks as well as established teams Matador Racing and Allied World Kemp Technologies in the final.
Said Firoz Loh, 18, the team captain of TWC Racing, “Of course I am very happy about winning but I could not have done it without my team mates. My first pair of riders did a perfect job in following the team plan and keeping with the bunch.”
He added, “However during the transition, I fell when I jumped onto the bike and I had to chase half a lap to latch back onto the pack, but I managed to, and I then stayed with the pack and waited for my time to come at the last roundabout before making my move.”
Singapore Civil Defence Force clinch the title in the inaugural Corporate Category
And in the newly introduced Corporate Category at the OCBC Speedway Championships, the team from Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) successfully held off the challenge from OCBC Pain Train and Team GlaxoSmithKline to make their mark as the winners.
Said Harith Rahim, 22, the captain of the SCDF team, “Honestly it was a great feeling to win. It was history in the making. This was the first time that SCDF has a cycling team and at the same time we are trying to propose to the senior management at the organisation that there is a group of cyclists who are enthusiastic to race.”
He added, “We did not really expect to win, but somehow we focused on this race and we trained hard for this. We put in 100 per cent determination and that paid off for us.”
Finishing with a time of 20 minutes and 42.2 seconds, the SCDF cycling team had executed their pre race tactics to perfection, leaving just enough energy in the tank to make their mark.