PETALING JAYA: After an impressive outing for Malaysia in the track competition, the focus will shift to the road events in the Asian Cycling Championships starting up north in Nakhon Ratchasima Province in Thailand today.
However, Malaysian riders will be hard pressed to follow in the footsteps of their team-mates, who enjoyed roaring success by bagging three gold medals through Azizul Hasni Awang (men’s senior keirin), Hariff Salleh (men’s senior scratch) and Mohd Syamil Bahrum (men’s junior 1km time trial) at Hua Mak Velodrome in Bangkok on Thursday.
The road competition begins with the individual time trial in senior and junior categories for men and women respectively.
Safwan Sawai and Masziyaton Mohd Radzi are the entries for the respective men’s (42km) and women’s (30km) senior individual time trial.
Fatehah Mustapha, the silver medallist in the 200m sprints, will be challenging for a second medal in the junior women’s 15km individual time trial together with Muslihah Salim.
Malaysia have entered Mohd Shahrul Mat Amin for the junior men’s 30km individual time trial.
While Malaysia will not be the frontrunners for the road competitions, team manager Datuk Naim Mohamad is hoping the junior riders would be able to spring surprises.
“The field is stronger this time compared to last year. Countries like Iran, Kazakhstan, South Korea and Japan have entered their top road racers. Even Mongolia have riders in the fray this time.
“But we are hoping our junior riders can spring upsets.
“It will be tougher for the seniors too but we hope they will put up good fights and not treat this as a holiday outing,” said Naim, who arrived with the cyclists from Bangkok in the afternoon.
For the seniors, the SEA Games will be more on their mind more than anything.
“We have done well in the road race competitions when it comes to SEA Games and we hope they will be the best placed South-east Asian riders here. All the riders are using this competition to learn the routes since it is also going to be used for the SEA Games,” he added.
Finishing ahead of the Indonesians, Thais and Filipino riders will definitely give the Malaysian cyclists a big boost towards the SEA Games challenge in Korat at the end of the year.
Malaysia chalked a double in the Manila SEA Games two years ago when Suhardi Hassan and Noor Azian Alias claimed both the men’s and women’s individual road race titles.
Suhardi and Noor Azian will lead the Malaysian challenge in the individual men’s and women’s road race, which will be held on Monday.
The hilly terrain on the route of the competition is not the only challenge awaiting the cyclists but also the scorching weather.
“It is hotter than Bangkok at this time and will be taxing as the competition starts in the afternoon.”