BY CHIA HAN KEONG
TWO-TIME Commonwealth Games silver medallist Graeme Miller has a simple reason why competitive cycling has become so popular in recent years: Speed.
The 49-year-old New Zealander began racing since 1973, and has seen cyclists get faster and faster throughout his 20-odd years of competing.
He told my paper yesterday: "The average speed of any race now has built up from 40kmh to 50kmh, which amazes me. On the velodrome, you see guys going under four minutes for the pursuit race, and almost cracking the one minute for the kilometre.
"We're getting faster as technology progresses. I used to race on old steel bicycles with heavy wheels, and, now, you can race on bikes which weigh a fifth or a sixth of what I used to race on.
"The technology makes our sport like Formula One racing now. It is getting that far forward with its aerodynamics." Now retired, he is currently the general manager of Team New Zealand, which will be sending a four-man team to the OCBC Cycle Singapore event, to be held around Kallang and the Marina Bay areas from March 6-7.
Three of his cyclists competed in last year's race, with Jason Allen coming in second in the King of the Sprints event, and fourth in the criterium race.
But it is the debuting cyclist, Patrick Bevin, whom Miller is most excited about. "I think he will be a big surprise here. He is a young kid with a lot of speed, and (he) is a very good criterium- race specialist," he enthused.
Above all, he is also keen to have a look at the way cycling in Singapore has taken off, with over 8,000 participants so far for the only mass cycling event.
He said: "The guys who raced here last year absolutely loved it. They know the circuit now and they know what to do, so we've had keen conversations on how we are going to improve on that.
"All the guys said the race was so well run, there was a fantastic field and they wanted to be first on the list to return.
"It is great for Singapore to be able to organise a race like that and have riders excited to come back." Among the numerous race categories which cater to cyclists of all ages and skill levels, the professional criterium race is the one that requires the most racing expertise.
There will be 65 pro cyclists pitting their skills against one another over 11/2 hours of intensive racing on a 2km circuit around the F1 Pit Building.
Besides Team New Zealand, a few other teams have also declared their participation for the event. Garmin Transitions, for example, will be sending Travis Meyer, the new Australian National Road Champion.
The 21-year-old has had a rapid rise to success, collecting Junior World Track Championship titles in 2006 and 2007, as well as wins in the Tour of Wellington and Tour of Berlin in 2008.
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