PETALING JAYA: The road to the 2008 Beijing Olympics begins for cyclists Josiah Ng and promising youngster Mohd Azizul Hasni Awang when they race in the Asian Championships starting in Bangkok Monday.
The track competition for the senior and elite at Hua Mak Velodrome in Bangkok will end on Thursday.
The road competition for both senior and elite categories will be held at Nakhon Ratchasima province from Sept 8-10.
Josiah has never raced in the Asian cycling meet since he started donning national colours in 2001 and the hope is on him to defend the keirin title for Malaysia.
Rizal Tisin won the keirin event in the Asian meet hosted in Malaysia last year. It was the only gold medal won in the senior category and also the first for Malaysia in 19 years.
However, Rizal's poor form has saw him losing his place to promising youngster Azizul Hasni Awang, who is groomed to lead the challenge in the Korat SEA Games in Thailand in December.
Azizul won three gold medals in the junior category in the Asian meet last year.
Malaysian team manager Datuk Naim Mohd said Azizul has been entered for the keirin and sprint events as well along with Josiah and another newcomer Muhd Edrus Yunus.
"Azizul was slated for the 1km time trial when he was promoted to the national team early this year but we wanted to try him for the individual sprint and keirin events.
"This is because the 1km time trial is not an Olympic event anymore and we wanted him to focus on getting into the Olympics. This will be his major exposure before we enter him for the World Cup campaigns later," said Naim in a telephone interview from Bangkok Sunday.
For Josiah, who arrived from United States to join the team last Friday, the Asian meet will give him a chance to earn automatic qualification for the World Championships next year.
"The World Championships gives out quota places for the Olympics but Josiah also can qualify through the UCI rankings at the same time," added Naim. However, it will not be easy for the Malaysian team to finish in the medals in the senior category this time. "Compared to last year, the field is much stronger because this is the year before the Olympics. "All the top Asian riders are present here because there are points to be earned towards the world rankings," said Naim. The team sprint in which Malaysia won a bronze last year will see a new combination of Azizul, Edrus and Junaidi Nasir. However, the team sprint combination could be switched to include Josiah depending on his form and if the schedule permits. The endurance events will be contested with a new team pursuit quartet of Amir Mustafa Rusli, Thum Weng Kin, Saiful Anuar Aziz and Akmal Amrun, while Jasmin Ruslan and Harrif Salleh have been slated for the scratch race and points race.Nor Azian Alias and Uracca Leow will lead the challenge in the women's road and track events.For the record, Malaysia won a medal haul of 4-5-3 in the championships last year.
Senior MenTrack: Josiah Ng, Mohd Azizul Hasni Awang, Muhd Edrus Yunus, Mohd Rizal Tisin, Amir Mustafa Rusli, Thum Weng Kin, Mohd Saiful Anuar, Mohd Akmal Amrun, Mohd Jasmin Ruslan, Mohd Hariff Salleh. Road: Suhardi Hassan, Mohd Zamri Salleh, Mohd Rauf Nur Misbah, Mohd Safwan Sawai, Mohd Faris Abdul Razak, Loh Sea Keong.
Senior WomenTrack and Road: Noor Azian Alias, Mohd Yusof Ruszatulzanariah, Uracca Leow, Sulha Sulaiman, Masziyaton Mohd Radzi, Norhidayah Yusari.
Junior MenTrack and Road: Mohd Syamil Bahrum, Mohd Zamani Mustaruddin, Mohd Firdaus Jaafar, Mohd Shahrul Mat Amin, Mohd Shahrul Afiza, Mohd Fadhli Fauzi, Mohd Azman Saharuddin, Ishak Amir Arifuddin.
Junior WomenTrack and Road: Fatehah Mustapha, Muslihah Salim, Badeuzzaman Nurul Ahmar.