Singapore look to upstage Malaysia
Malaysia aim to retain speedway title, Singapore want to go one better
It is a new-look national road cycling squad, with just one member from the team that finished second last year.
Singapore's team of five for today's OCBC Cycle South-east Asia Speedway Championship at the Sports Hub features three riders - Gabriel Tan, Junaidi Hashim and Raymond Quek - who donned Singapore colours for the first time only last week in Hong Kong.
But it has not stopped captain Ho Jun Rong from targeting the $6,000 winners' cheque.
Speaking at the pre-event festivities yesterday, the 26-year-old said: "The goal coming into this competition is to win. We have reflected on our performance last year and have a strategy.
"Training with the new squad has been good and, as with any other new team, our focus will continue to be on getting the fundamentals right.
"We've done as much as we can, we are hyped up and ready to race."
Fauzan Ahmad Lutfi, a 2013 SEA Games 100km team time-trial bronze medallist, is the only rider in the Malaysian team that was part of the winning outfit last year.
"We will do our best to retain our title," said the 30-year-old, at the Grand Copthorne Waterfront Singapore.
"We have been training every day as usual, mostly in criterium too, since the format here is like the criterium."
Malaysia, Myanmar and Cambodia were drawn into the first preliminary group at the draw yesterday, with Singapore, Philippines and Brunei in the other group.
There will also be 15 teams from nine local clubs competing in the Club Speedway Championship today.
The event is the final race of the OCBC Cycle Series, where cyclists and clubs rack up points in a new ranking system introduced by the Singapore Cycling Federation (SCF).
The national sports association also introduced open selection trials for the national team, ending its previous policy of selecting riders based on competition performances.
Thirty-eight cyclists were selected for the training squad, and the number will be further trimmed as they work towards next year's SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur.
Tan, who is among the 38 who passed SCF's selection trials, hopes the changes will attract youngsters to take up cycling.
"It's really good that they are adopting something, instead of doing nothing," said the 33-year-old former national triathlete, who has focused on cycling for the last seven years.
"They are actually making headway for a lot of new things to come."
SCF honorary secretary Hing Siong Chen is heartened by the turnout of local riders for the OCBC Cycle Series - 679 have participated this year - and the federation is looking to make some improvements next year.
He said: "Next month, we will be publishing next year's calendar (of events) to give people an early start in planning their races for 2017.
"We have met with many event companies to make sure that their events don't clash with one another... and would like to work with them to sanction these events as well."
Around 6,800 riders will participate in the OCBC Cycle this weekend, which also includes tomorrow's Sportive Ride (42km) and The Straits Times Ride (23km).
“Next month, we will be publishing next year’s calendar (of events) to give people an early start in planning their races for 2017.”
— Singapore Cycling Federation honorary secretary Hing Siong Chen, on the improvements for next year