No bike, but you can still try for the national cycling team
SCF takes a bottom-up approach to its new talent identification process for road cycling
The Singapore Cycling Federation (SCF) is throwing its doors to the national road cycling team wide open.
Just about anyone who thinks he or she is good enough to follow in the footsteps of 2015 South-east Asia (SEA) Games bronze medallists, Vincent Ang and Dinah Chan, is welcome to try out.
And - this is no joke - you don't even have to own a bike.
To be launched next month, the selection trials will be split into two key phases leading up to the 2017 SEA Games and the Asian Continental Championships, but have the Commonwealth Games in 2018 as the target further in the distance.
It starts with a three-month application period, after which kicks in phase one of selection.
Athletes will have their three-principle energy systems - neuromuscular, aerobic and anaerobic - tested, then profiled and given ratings based on power, the key standard measurement that the sport utilises.
After the SCF selection committee sits down and picks the squad, it will begin training and competing.
Phase two is a camp that will focus on teamwork and mental strength before the final cut is made ahead of the SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur next year.
While such methods have been used in the selection of junior cyclists in the past, this is the first time that the SCF will utilise this for the senior level, leading up to specific major competitions.
"We want to revamp our national squad, while also building a bigger pool of cyclists and, hopefully through this, find more Vincent Angs and Dinah Chans as well as the people in the team to support those guys to a medal," said SCF sport and technical manager Samuel Yang.
"It's going to be very inclusive, and anyone aged 17 and above, is a Singaporean or a Permanent Resident looking to gain citizenship can try out, and they don't even need to own a bike."
Yang revealed that while the road national squad were made up of some 20 cyclists, the SCF is hoping to put together a team of some 30 riders this time.
Current national riders will also have to subject themselves to this system if they wish to represent the Republic at the 2017 SEA Games and beyond.
While in the past the SCF has chosen its athletes based on performances in competition, this selection method is not uncommon in the cycling world.
"This method is used across the world, and there are a couple of reasons we've gone this way. Firstly, this is fair, and includes cyclists who don't compete in big events," said SCF head coach Adrian Ng.
"Skills can be learnt, but first we want to look at a cyclist's engine. And because the major cycling teams are using this protocol of talent identification, after a few years of collecting data, we can benchmark our cyclists against the world's best."
Ng asserts that the second phase of the selection is vital to performance in competitions.
He said: "We've learnt lessons from the 2015 SEA Games... where the chain of command was not stuck to. Riders were perhaps too individualistic, tactically speaking, and that cost us.
"That's why phase two will focus on teamwork."
While this will kick off with road cycling, the SCF is looking at getting the other disciplines of mountain bike and BMX to study the potential of implementing a similar structured talent identification process.
SCF general manager Mahipal Singh revealed that cycling has been inspired by local administrators running sports, the likes of gymnastics, canoeing and fencing, that have implemented structures and processes that have led to results in the sporting arena.
He said: "This step-by-step bottom-up approach to talent identification is an enhancement to our selection process, and is what the major sports are doing.
"And if we hit our process and system goals, the outcome -medals - will come."
Teamwork is key in road racing: SEA Games medallist Ang
The South-east Asia (SEA) Games bronze medal in the men's criterium was the prize at the end of a long road to redemption for Singapore cycling's "bad boy" Vincent Ang, and the national cyclist has not slowed down since.
He has finished six times on the podium, including four times in first place at major races since last June's Games - at the Bangkok Criterium, the Chiang Rai Criterium, the Tour of Chiangmai (Stage 1), and the Tour de Khong (Stage 1) - for the Singha Infinite Cycling Team, the Thai professional side he races for.
Ang is eyeing another shot at SEA Games glory in Kuala Lumpur next August, and he believes the Singapore Cycling Federation's (SCF) new two-phase selection system (see facing story) that will be launched next month will be good for the sport, especially the second phase which focuses on teamwork.
Speaking to The New Paper from Thailand, after his teammate Peter Pouly won Monday's Doi Inthanon race, he extolled the spirit of teamwork that he insists is the platform without which he would not have been able to win anything.
"I won those races because I have a team that are selfless, not because I was in particularly good form. Of course, all the training needs to go into it but, when I have teammates who support me, I am very confident of achieving something in the race," said the 39-year-old.
In road races, a six-man team are entered with each having different roles. Often, five men are working to help the sixth - the cyclist best suited for the particular race conditions - to conserve energy, while fashioning an opportunity for him to finish on the podium.
"The SEA Games is next year, and all of my efforts this year will be devoted to making that team, and I wish I could ride forever, but I'm going to be 40 soon. I'm not young any more and we need new blood to come into the national team," he said.
NEW TWO-PHASE SELECTION
SCF's new two-phase talent identification and selection process will be launched next month, firstly with a selection and training phase, and then a second phase that will see a training camp focused on fostering teamwork.
"I think the new selection system is fair but, more importantly, a team's chances of winning increases exponentially if you have good teamwork, and that mindset needs to be instilled in the new riders," he said, echoing sentiments of the SCF, that teamwork at the 2015 Games was not ideal.
"Without teamwork, we're just going there to compete, and see if other teams make a mistake or have some misfortune."
Even though he won bronze at the last Games, Ang - like every other current national cyclist - will have to go through the selection process, including the training camp if he is to fly the Singapore flag at the next Games in Kuala Lumpur.
But that is no bother for Ang, who is, over and above his training and racing schedule, still intent on doing his part for the community.
Last year was his first appearance for Singapore at the SEA Games despite being a national cyclist for 20 years before that.
Indeed even during the course of training for the Games, Ang was embroiled in several controversies.
And the man who took his second chance with both hands will be taking part in the SCF's efforts to raise $100,000 for the Yellow Ribbon project on Friday and Saturday before flying off to Chiang Rai immediately after for another community event with Singha Infinite Cycling Team.
"I have no issues committing to training or even to charity events, we are part of a team," said Ang.
"And those are just the responsibilities that come with being a member."
SCF selection system
Starting next month: Three-month application process open to all Singaporeans and Permanent Residents (with the intention to become citizens) aged 17 and above.
- Phase One: Athlete testing, profiling, then selection of national training squad, followed by training and competitions.
- Phase Two: Training camp focused on teamwork, before final cut is made ahead of 2017 SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur.