Games champion Hariff tackles new OCBC Cycle test

Games champion Hariff tackles new OCBC Cycle test
Malaysia's Mohd Hariff Saleh (centre), a double gold medallist at this year's SEA Games, has a chance to make another mark. His team will vie with six others in the OCBC Cycle Speedway SEA Championships today.
PHOTO: The Straits Times

Malaysian cyclist Mohd Hariff Saleh is no stranger to Singapore.

He ruled the roost at the recent SEA Games here, bagging two gold medals in the men's criterium and mass start road race.

The 27-year-old is also a frequent visitor. He makes the trip across the Causeway more than 10 times a year to visit his brother, who owns a bicycle shop here.

"Singapore feels like home to me," said Hariff, who recalls cycling along Changi Coastal Road and mountain-biking at Sentosa.

However, despite his familiarity with the country's roads, he will face a new challenge today.

He and his team-mates are up against six other teams from the region at the OCBC Cycle Speedway SEA Championships.

The competition, a first for the seven-year-old event, has attracted entries from Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines and Singapore.

The club category will feature 15 local cycling outfits.

The teams will compete in a unique format. Four riders from each team will complete a total of 10 laps around a 1km looped course along Stadium Drive, outside the National Stadium.

The first two cyclists will tackle the first 5km, and pass a wristband to the next pair to finish the race.

The time taken is clocked when the last rider of each team crosses the finish line.

"It is exciting for all of us because this is completely different from what we are used to. It's like a team time trial - times two," said Malaysia's SEA Games coach Sebastian Duclos, a Frenchman.

Said Singapore cyclist Low Ji Wen, 26: "There is no time to make any mistakes. We cannot let anyone of our team's riders drop off."

Cyclists who are used to longer road races are expected to go faster in today's event, increasing their average speeds by about 5kmh.

Low added: "It's a level playing field. In our heads, it might not seem that daunting but I think it might be harder because of the higher speeds."

About 7,300 riders will hit the roads this weekend for the nation's biggest cycling event.

Most will take part in tomorrow's Sportive Ride (42km) and The Straits Times Ride (23km).


This article was first published on August 29, 2015.
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