Sapura set to up ante

One for the album: The Sapura cycling squad posing for a photo shoot during team presentation for the Tour of Taiwan in March.

PETALING JAYA: Team Sapura Cycling’s ultimate aim is to secure ProTeam status after climbing to the summit in Asia.

Their strong campaigns before the season came to a standstill due to the Covid-19 pandemic was enough for them to finish as the No. 1 team in the UCI Asia Tour road cycling rankings.

Sapura concluded the Asia Tour season with 1,113 points followed by Terengganu Cycling Team (TSG) on 864 and Kazakhstan’s Vino Astana Motors (465).

Sapura made their debut as a professional team in 2017 and finished second overall to TSG last season. They were 15th overall in 2018.

Team principal and former national cyclist Sayuti Zahid was happy and proud to finally become the best in Asia.

“We were still new in 2018 and did not get many invites to race in Asia, ” said Sayuti.

Good run: Sapura’s Nur Aiman Zariff won the red jersey (mountains classification) in the 2020 Tour of Langkawi.Good run: Sapura’s Nur Aiman Zariff won the red jersey (mountains classification) in the 2020 Tour of Langkawi.

“The season stopped from March to September due to Covid-19 but we had taken part in a few and managed to do well, so it’s a fine way to end the year.

“This year has been strange as we were busy at the start and everything just stopped after that.

“I want to thank the riders and staff for putting in the hard work and also the sponsors for their support.

Sapura earned ranking points in the Tour of Cambodia, Le Tour de Langkawi (LTdL), Tour of Taiwan as well as three events in Turkey – Tour of Antalya, Grand Prix Velo Alanya and Grand Prix Manavgat.

The highlights for Sapura was retaining the LTdL yellow jersey (general classification) through Italian climber Danilo Celano and capturing the red jersey (mountains classification) through youngster Nur Aiman Zariff. It was also the first time a Malaysian won the red jersey in the event.

Sapura won the LTdL yellow jersey for the first time in 2019 through Australian time trial specialist Benjamin Dyball.

“Our goal after this is to try to secure ProTeam status. We would have gone to fight for it next year with a bigger sponsorship deal. But now I don’t think it can happen with the current economic situation. Maybe after 2021 if things get better.”

Moving up to ProTeam status would allow Sapura to compete in higher level competitions.

However, there are conditions to retaining the status as teams need to finish in the top 20 in the world and teams must have a big pool of riders and staff.

In the world team rankings this year, Sapura finished 27th while TSG came in 32nd.

Besides three riders from Malaysia – Nur Aiman Zariff, Mohd Hakimi Ajis and Mohd Saari Amri Abdul Rasim – they also have cyclists from Italy, Australia, Ireland, Moldova, Romania and Turkey.

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