This weekend, you can witness elite cyclists from around the region going all out for the jugular – at the OCBC Cycle South East Asia (SEA) Speedway Championship.
A brand new and unique cycling race format
A first for Singapore, this brand new and unique cycling format will see four riders in each team riding a total of 10 laps in pairs, around a fast and flat 1km course. And our very own sporting dome, the Singapore Sports Hub will play host to this thrilling and adrenaline-pumping competition, for both spectators and cyclists alike.
This high-speed, high adrenaline competition has attracted cyclists from Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines and Singapore.
Said Ms Koh Ching Ching, Head of Group Corporate Communications at OCBC Bank, “We introduced the OCBC Cycle SEA Speedway Championship as a new competitive format for OCBC Cycle 2015. As a regional bank, our support of a SEA race makes a lot more sense for us. This race will see seven national teams pit their skills against one another in this whole new and exciting format and we will have the opportunity to see where each team stands amongst the region’s best.”
Speed and excitement for spectators
Koh added, “For spectators, we hope that it gives them the speed and excitement of firstly witnessing the qualifying rounds and seeing teams getting kicked out. Spectators can also witness the quick cycling format rather than some other sports where you have to watch a long time to see something happen. We also hope this provides a quick burst of energy in a short period of time so that people can see the variety and the speed that the cyclists are moving at.”
Adds another competitive cycling event to the local calendar
Koh also explained, “This race will also contribute to the cycling community – as based on feedback, there is not enough races in this region, so we want to make available, another race platform for them. Though this is not a typical race format, it is always a challenge to close roads in Singapore and because of such constraints, we always innovate. This is an example of innovation.”
Elite cyclists are eagerly anticipating the competition
The elite cyclists taking part in the competition, are definitely pumped up and eagerly anticipating taking on their regional rivals. Said Team Singapore’s Low Ji Wen, 25, “We are very excited about it. It is a very refreshing change to what we are used to doing. Because it is a shorter distance, it is easier in that sense – but then again, the speed will be much more intense than most of our other cycling races.”
Continued Low, “It should be really interesting though, with all the different SEA teams as well as the Sri Lankan team. It should also be a great chance for redemption from the recent SEA Games.”
While Low admitted that the competitors are familiar, having come up against them many times previously, so they know exactly who to watch out for. He said, “Obviously we have to keep an eye on Malaysia’s SEA Games double gold medallist (Harrif Bin Saleh). He is our No 1 marked man, but with the relay format it may throw up some rather unexpected results.”
How then, are the Singaporean riders preparing for such unexpected stuff? Explained Low, “It all comes down to the tactical side during the race itself. Nothing we do in training can replicate the races. I had a bad accident a few weeks ago, and I had to take a little time off the bike to heal and recover – so I can’t speak for the rest of the team. I know that they have been training pretty hard though, so we should do ok. It is hard though, to say how well we would actually do, as we have never done this type of race before.”
Malaysia’s SEA Games double gold medallist is confident
But SEA Games Double Gold Medallist Harrif, is quite confident of doing well for Malaysia at the OCBC Cycle SEA Speedway Championship. He said, “Winning two gold medals during the SEA Games in June in Singapore meant a lot to me and my country.”
Continued Harrif, “The competition at the OCBC Cycle Speedway Championship may be tough but we are all gunning for a double win here. I am going to give it my all with my team. The new race format of a speedway race is unique in this part of the world and it’s going to be an exciting race. I can’t wait for tomorrow.”
Biggest challenges at the Speedway Championship
What are the biggest challenges that the elite cyclists are anticipating at the Speedway Championship? Said Low, “The biggest challenge would probably be not making mistakes. This is such a compact race and it’s so short – we will like complete the 5km in maybe 7 and a half to 8 minute so it’s not a lot of time to make any mistakes.
Continued Low, “For instance, you may see a couple of riders feeling strong at the start and they give it a good go – but they reach the end and there’ll be no more gas left. So we have to pace ourselves correctly and get our tactics right. It’s totally different to a longer road race where there is more chance for error.”
Home ground event is not an advantage
But Low does not feel that the event being based in Singapore though, is an advantage to the local team. He said “The circuit itself is something that the Singaporeans have ridden in training almost every day so it is nothing new to us. But then again there is nothing that stands out about the circuit in terms of it being technical or dangerous. So I think that it will not cause an issue for most of the riders.”
Low is relishing the chance to compete again at home. He said “We have just finished the SEA Games in Singapore and that was an awesome experience. But still we don’t get the chance to race very frequently at home – so that is the most exciting part about this, for me.”
Plenty of other things for cyclists to look forward to
Besides the Speedway Championship, there are also plenty of other things that the 7,300 participants can look forward to, at OCBC Cycle 2015. Said Koh, “For the first time, we have the West part of the route (for the 42km Sportive Ride and the 23km Straits Times Ride). In the past, we have always gone to the East but this is the first time we are going Westwards.”
She continued, “Secondly, the cyclists will finish the ride in the National Stadium. For many people I have talked to, when you are cycling after a long distance and you come into the National Stadium, that wow factor is so amazing, like taking part in a major competition such as the SEA Games and we hope to give participants that type of feeling.”
However, Koh conceded that the massive support – that athletes tend to get during major competitions such as the SEA Games – will not really be there. She said “Though it would be nice to have spectators cheering on the riders, our stadium is huge! Several other events have not been able to fill our stadium so to be realistic, I do not think that we can! But certainly, family and friends of the cyclists will be there to welcome them back.”
Stay safe and practise caution
It should not be forgotten that the Straits Times Ride and Sportive Ride at OCBC Cycle 2015 are mass rides. So Low said that staying safe is the most important priority of all. He explained, “To the other cyclists taking part in the event, just stay safe. I know a lot of people are competitive and they all try to gun for personal best timings in the amateur events, but staying safe is the most important thing.”
Continued Low, “Also it’s important to be cautious rather than anything else. While some may say to go slower when heading downhill, I cannot advocate that because I do not do it myself! But basically, do not be reckless.”
The OCBC Cycle Speedway Championship will be held on Saturday, 29 August 2015 – at Stadium Drive, Singapore Sports Hub.
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