Loh saddles up for the big time

Loh saddles up for the big time
Loh Sea Keong pays tribute to the OCBC Singapore Pro Cycling Team for providing him with a platform to stretch his abilities. In return, he has also provided leadership and played big brother to his younger team-mates over the past two seasons spent with the team.

Despite being known as a gentle and quiet observer both on and off the professional cycling circuit, Loh Sea Keong confronted a rider from a rival team two weeks ago at the Tour de Okinawa.

He gave a stern warning to the Japanese who had been a bully on tour all season: Touch my riders again, and you'll be in the gutter the next time we race.

It might have seemed uncharacteristic of Loh who, over the past two seasons on the OCBC Singapore Pro Cycling Team, had always let his results do the talking but it was merely his protective streak at work.

"I felt responsible to protect my team-mates," recalled the 27-year-old Malaysian, describing his fellow riders as "family".

"They are younger and have less experience than me. Someone has to stand up and do something... or, next time, they'll do the same thing to you again."

That Japanese rider in question eventually apologised in person to the Singapore outfit.

Loh's leadership and big-brother role in the OCBC set-up will be missed after he was announced on Sunday as the latest signing for Team Argos-Shimano.

He will be the first South-east Asian to race for a ProTeam side, which are elite teams that compete in the top-tier Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) World Tour. It includes fabled races such as the Giro d'Italia and Tour de France, where Argos-Shimano won four stages this year.

Loh had been the star of the OCBC team this year, chalking up two stage wins on the UCI Asia Tour and also taking the yellow jersey at the Jelajah Malaysia in June.

"It's the kind of dream you never think would actually happen in real life," he told The Straits Times on Sunday. "Not because it's unachievable but because a lot of things need to come together for it to happen."

Truth be told, Loh had contemplated quitting the sport altogether just three years ago.

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