Malaysia has proven its prowess at the OCBC Cycle Speedway South East Asian Championships, by clinching the title for the second straight year, yesterday.
They were also the winners in last year’s inaugural edition of the championships.
A comfortable win
Taking place yesterday morning at the Singapore Sports Hub, the Malaysian team had cruised to a comfortable win against the Philippines and Brunei in the final. Their winning timing was 18 minutes 05.283 seconds, bettering their winning time from last year by 39 seconds.
Said Muhammad Fauzan bin Ahmad Lutfi, 30, team captain for Malaysia, “We are very happy to win and we expected to defend our title this year. We are hoping to try again next year for a hat trick.”
Leading from start to finish, the Malaysians had been hardly challenged by their competitors as their lead rider built up a sizeable lead from flag off. The lead continued to grow after the switch over at the halfway mark of the race, with Fauzan and team mate Sofian Nabil Omar Bin Mohd Bakri lapping the chasing pack, who had settled into a tactical battle for second spot.
Fauzan added “But we had an advantage this year though because some of the strong competitors like Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia were not present. We weren’t too worried about the semi final results and kept our focus on the finals – this was part of our strategy to win. We also pushed ourselves to the limit and gave 100 percent of effort to meet our target for timing and speed and it paid off.”
Battle for second spot
The battle for second spot began at the switch over, with the Philippines and Brunei giving up the challenge for first place and aiming for second spot instead. Eventually this ended when the two Brunei cyclists edged the lone Filipino to claim their second spot behind the Malaysians by a whisker. They finished in 20 minutes and 07.523 seconds while Philippines clocked a timing of 20 minutes 07.583 seconds.
Said the Brunei captain, Azmi bin Abd Hadzid, “I knew that the last Filipino rider is a sprinter, so I told my team mates to wait and follow him because I knew that both my team mates in the second leg would do well to sprint to the finish line.”
He added, “This was my second time participating in the OCBC Cycle Speedway Championships but my three team mates were new to the competition. So I gave them feedback on the race structure and motivated them to believe in themselves. We also supported each other and that was important.”
Singapore crashed out in the heats
Host nation Singapore however, crashed out of the competition by finishing last in their heats.
Said Adrian Ng, 35, head coach of Singapore Cycling, “To be honest we are all disappointed but one encouraging thing was that we came in as a team and shared the load as a team. It was heartening to see the team embracing one another rather than pointing fingers at each other – of course we are sad that we could not deliver on home ground, but that is part and parcel of racing and you have to just take it and move on.”
Singapore, in the same group as the Philippines and Brunei, had been aiming to better their timing from last year, but their opponents set a blistering pace from the start, which had proved insurmountable despite a valiant fightback from Singapore’s Junaidi bin Hashim and Gabriel Tan.
Said Ng, “We tried our best to catch up in the last couple of loops, but the distance was too short for us to do so. It was quite bad luck that one of our riders had a seizure too.”
Things rarely go according to plan
Added Team Singapore captain, Ho Jun Rong, 26, “Due to the race strategy which emphasises a lot on team work and strategy, it is not a format that you will see in normal races. But then again, things never go according to plan in a race as dynamic as this; even if you plan it to the best of your abilities, things may go haywire. We are always looking at a long term plan though which is towards the South East Asian Games 2017 and we will use this race to identify our weaknesses and focus on the positives.”
According to Ng, planning more time in advance before such competitions in the future, will definitely help.
He said “Going forward, what we can possibly do is to come down earlier – that will help riders who need to warm up more and so that we can have more buffer time too.”
Specialized Mavericks clinch first and second spots in the OCBC Cycle Club Speedway Championships
In the club category, Singapore team Specialized Mavericks 1 was too fast for its opponents, finishing in a time of 18 minutes 31.517 seconds. Coming in second was Specialized Mavericks C with a time of 19 minutes 13.613 seconds.
In third place had been local Team SwiftCarbon Virgin Active with a time of 20 minutes and 10.020 seconds – preventing a clean sweep of the Specialized Mavericks clubs, with a series of tactical moves in the second half of the race.
Finishing fourth had been Specialized Mavericks 2, completing the race mere fractions behind, at 20 minutes and 19.947 seconds.
Said Tim Clarsen, 46, from winning club Specialized Mavericks 1, “We trained very hard for this and we are happy about the victory. It was a great event and we’re happy to showcase our colours and race as a team.”
He added, “We had practised this course many times and put the fastest guys in the first relay so that they could create a good gap thus allowing our second two riders to go easy.”
His team mate Joseph Cummings had also shared his sentiments, and at the same time, feeling that the team had improved compared to their showing last year. Said Cummings, “There were definitely improvements from last year’s edition and it was all very positive. We had a lot of fun and practised a lot for the last two weeks.”
In fact according to Clarsen, Specialized Mavericks had practised on the actual course about seven to eight times in all, putting in anywhere between two to five hours of cycling in the wee hours of the morning before work.
The need for more organised cycling events in Singapore
Continued Cummings, “We certainly see the need for more organised cycling events in Singapore because the cycling community is growing. The inclusion of competitions like the OCBC Cycle Club Speedway Challenge is something that cyclists want to have in Singapore.”
President of Singapore Cycling Federation (SCF), Jeffrey Goh, also shared his sentiments. Said Goh, “I feel this event can be even more wonderful if we have more clubs in Singapore supporting these events. This year we have organised four to five SCF-sanctioned events but we believe that the cycling community in Singapore has grown tremendously over the last five years.”
Continued Goh, “Cycling is the new golf now; I believe that if we continue on this way, the future for cycling in Singapore is great.”
Other blog posts