Focus on S'pore cyclists

OCBC Singapore Pro Cycling Team riders (from left) Ho Jun Rong, Loh Sea Keong and Low Ji Wen.

With one race win at the Jelajah Malaysia, two-stage victories and eight-podium finishes, the OCBC Singapore Pro Cycling Team have enjoyed a sweet ride in the first half of the 2013 Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) Asia Tour.

The team have collected three jerseys - one King of the Mountains, one white and one yellow - this year, compared to their debut season in 2012 which yielded just one jersey win.

While the team have managed to meet a number of their targets already, none of their seven Singaporeans has managed to get on the podium and that is now the goal for the second half of the season.

"Based on the experience of being able to fulfil those targets (in the first half of the year), we are able to focus on our last big targets for this year," said team manager Justin Cheong on Thursday.

"Firstly, we want to try to get a Singaporean on the podium and to get Singaporeans to the South-east Asia (SEA) Games and to have these boys as contenders for medals for the nation, not for the team.

Best chance to win

"I don't think we're far from (seeing a Singaporean on the podium) at all. I think we're really close and that's why we're racing a very focused programme which will give our cyclists the best chance to win."

To prepare the local riders for the SEA Games in Myanmar, the OCBC Pro Cycling Team have eight events lined up for the rest of the year, starting with the Tour of Borneo on Aug 18.

Even though the team's foreign cyclists like Malaysian Loh Sea Keong, Dutchman Thomas Rabou and Aussie Eric Sheppard - he is riding under the OCBC banner as part of an exchange with Australian club search2retain - have made the headlines, Singaporeans Goh Choon Huat and Low Ji Wen have been making their presence felt with five top-20 finishes between them.

Such success breeds confidence, which is clearly rubbing off on local team members like Ho Jun Rong, who is gunning for a medal at the SEA Games.

"We've been improving a lot since we got foreign talent and we're really happy for them when they win," said the 22-year-old.

"It takes a team effort to really put someone like Sea Keong up there (at Jelajah Malaysia).

"When you have someone in your team who wins, it gives the team a lot of confidence that you can do it also. In terms of performance, I won't say we're that far away from them."

Even though the OCBC team are only into their second season as a professional outfit, their performances this year are causing their rivals to sit up and take notice.

Said Cheong: "What (caught a lot of teams' attention) was Jelajah Malaysia, where Sea Keong won the yellow jersey.

"We took three days to win the entire thing but, on those three days, our riders proved themselves to be top class.

"One of the guys who was racing against Sea Keong, along with his teammates, tried very hard to break us and it caused him to lose the jersey. But in the last 30km, he came up to Sea Keong and said: 'Your team too strong. You win, you win.'

"To cause six men to stop racing altogether, I think that means they're due a little bit of respect."

 

gregloo@sph.com.sg


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