An almost brand new Singapore National Cycling Team is relishing the challenges of finishing on top of the pack… and overthrowing the defending champions, Malaysia… at the OCBC Cycle South East Asia (SEA) Speedway Championships tomorrow.
Team Singapore Line-up is changed
This is despite the Team Singapore line-up being almost completely changed as compared to the team that had bagged the second place at last year’s inaugural edition of the championship – the sole returning rider is Junaidi Bin Hashim.
And he is also being joined by fellow Singaporeans, 26 year old Ho Jun Rong – who placed second at this year’s OCBC Cycle National Road Championship (individual time trial) and Raymond Quek – who had secured a third place finish in the Men’s Master’s Category at this year’s OCBC Cycle National Mountain Bike Championship.
Newly recruited national cyclists Gabriel Tan – who finished seventh at the 2016 OCBC Cycle National Road Championships 2016 (Individual Time Trial) and Muhammad Irsyad Marican – who placed fourth at the OCBC Cycle Road Race (Men’s Open) in March this year, will also be part of the 2016 team.
Need to get the fundamentals right
Said Ho, the Team Captain of Singapore, “The goal coming into this competition is to win. We have reflected on our performances in 2015 and have a strategy. Training with the new squad has been good and as with any other new team, our focus will be to get the fundamentals right. We have done as much as we can and we are hyped up now and ready to race.”
He added, “Looking at this race from a tactics viewpoint, the OCBC Cycle Speedway Championships has a unique format; last year we did not capitalise on that. The two riders at any one time should be tactically similar in terms of thinking and capacity. You can’t have one rider sprinting ahead and leaving his partner behind – both have to go across the finish line at the same time. This is good on the organisers though because it encourages cycling as a team sport rather than an individual one.”
Last year’s winners, Malaysia, are modest about their chances
The eventual winner of this championship last year – had been Malaysia, who remain modest about their chances of retaining the championship.
Said Malaysia’s Fauzan Ahmad Lutfi, 30, “We will try our best to defend the title this year. We’re training very hard, almost every day and this team has the talent to do as well as last year’s side.”
Speaking at a media briefing
The cyclists had been speaking at a media briefing held at OCBC Cycle event partner Millennium Hotels and Resorts’ Grand Copthorne Waterfront Hotel – where the national teams had also been split randomly into two groups for the preliminary races.
The team captains of Malaysia and Singapore had been in charge of drawing the groups – while their team mates had watched with bated breath.
Singapore will be up against Philippines and Brunei in their group and Malaysia will be against Myanmar and Cambodia in theirs. The two top teams from each group will advance to the semi finals, and then the last two standing will fight it out in the final for the title.
A tough fight
Taking place at the Sports Hub tomorrow, the SEA Speedway Championships will see the teams pitting their skills against each other over three rounds of exciting racing.
Said Adrian Ng, 35, the Head Coach, Singapore Cycling Federation (SCF), “We stand a good chance to win it but the Philippines will be tough to beat in the preliminary stages. Then if we make it through, we have Malaysia; nevertheless it is exciting to be facing the favourites and we will give it out all and i am confident of what we will have.”
Prizes of $6,000, $4,000 and $2,000 will be awarded to the first, second and third placed teams respectively.
Club Speedway Championships
In the OCBC Cycle Club Speedway Championships, on the other hand, nine local cycling clubs will be fielding 15 teams – this will be their last chance to improve on their standings as they vie to become the nation’s best cycling club in the new ranking system which had been introduced earlier this year.
And the final result will come down to the total points racked up by each club’s four best performances in the individual rankings of the four events – the OCBC Cycle Road Race on 13 March, the Individual Time Trial on 22 May and the Criterium on 29 May, and the OCBC Cycle Speedway Championships.
Local team, Specialised Mavericks no doubt have their eyes on the prize – with the club sending in three teams to take part in the Championships, they are still nevertheless expecting stiff competition from Geylang Cycling Club – who had beaten them to second spot by one second.
Said Alan Grant, the spokesperson of Specialised Mavericks, “We are excited to be racing again in the OCBC Cycle Club Speedway Championships; it is always great for us to race on home soil where we can try and put on a good show for our sponsors and Singapore based supporters.”
He added, “We are aware of the tough competition and Geylang Cycling Team are definitely one of the favourites. We’re sure Allied World will have a strong team too but our strategy is simple – race hard. In addition to our normal team training sessions, we have been down a few times to practise on parts of the course.”
if there are still clubs that are tied for points overall after the OCBC Cycle Club Speedway Championships, then the result will come down to which club had the most first place finishes.
The SCF will hold another event later this year – in order to present the prizes to the top cycling club as well as the best overall individual.
New national ranking system has gone well
This new national ranking system, into its debut year, has gone well according to SCF Honorary Secretary, Dr Hing Siong Chen. He said “The national ranking point system has definitely helped to create a more vibrant cycling scene in Singapore.”
He added “We have seen more than 679 cyclists come forward to take part in the OCBC Cycle Road Series events in their quest to become the nation’s top ranked cyclist. Through their participation, as well as from a national talent identification programme, we are happy to have shortlisted a pool of 38 national road cyclists – comprising 30 men and eight women, to train in the national squad.”
And looking further ahead, this new national squad are aiming to qualify for the upcoming South East Asia Games held in Malaysia in 2017, and hopefully will also try to do so for the Commonwealth Games in 2018.
Added Dr Hing, “The OCBC Cycle Club and Speedway Championship will also allow us to further identify more local talent from the club races and gauge the standard of our own national team when pitted against the strong field of the other South East Asia teams.”