SINGAPORE - For the first time in seven years, there will be no professional riders at Cycle Asia Singapore as organiser Spectrum Worldwide looks to establish the event as the go-to, mass-participation one for the community.
While previous editions featured the likes of two-time Olympic gold medallist Ed Clancy and 2013 world champion Aaron Gate in the professional criterium race, Spectrum has decided to scrap the category - typically a 59km race open only to professional riders - this year.
Asked if the absence of elite names will take the shine off the April 10-12 event, which starts and ends at the F1 Pit Building, Spectrum CEO Chris Robb said: "I don't think it will. The (main purpose) of the event is about giving recreational riders the opportunity to ride on closed roads.
"It's great for people to have an opportunity to watch the professionals but is (staging) a criterium - and flying in all the professionals - necessarily the right solution to this?"
He stressed that Cycle Asia events are not races - but mass participation events which anyone can sign up for and enjoy himself.
As for engagement with professionals, he said there were build-up activities planned with Cycle Asia Singapore ambassadors Robbie McEwen, a three-time Tour de France green jersey winner, and commentator Phil Liggett, known in cycling circles as the "voice of cycling".
This year's edition will see some 10,500 enthusiasts throng the Marina Bay area and East Coast Park, down from 11,500 last year.
The smaller number is one of several extra safety measures put in place after the death of full-time national serviceman Chia Wee Kiat last year raised concerns about unclear road signs and inexperienced cyclists jamming up the route.
Other new precautions include an earlier flag-off time to allow for longer intervals between each wave of cyclists, more medical personnel and deployment of seasoned riders in each wave to "encourage safe and responsible" behaviour.
There will also be compulsory qualification for the Yakult Ace Light Super Challenge, a 57km event open to riders above 16.
Said Robb: "We always take safety seriously... and not just because there was an accident last year. There's a number of new initiatives this year... and hopefully we can continue to improve year-on-year."
Cycle Asia Singapore is one of two mass-cycling events in Singapore this year.
The other is the OCBC Cycle on Aug 29 and 30 which will see selected races finish inside the National Stadium for the first time. Registration for Cycle Asia Singapore is now open.
This article was first published on January 16, 2015.
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