PETALING JAYA: Terengganu cyclist Mohd Hariff Salleh is looking certain to win the tussle to be the front-line rider for Malaysia in the men’s road race at the New Delhi Commonwealth Games next month if his recent performances in Australia are anything to go by.
Hariff capped a brilliant end to his campaign in the eight-day Tour of the Murray River by winning the 66km Stage 14 race.
It was his fourth stage win and he also underlined his sprinting skills by storming home first in Stage 2 (25.5km), Stage 7 (56.9km) and Stage 8 (48km).
Hariff also earned two second and three third place finishes to emerge as the top Malaysian performer in the field of more than 200 cyclists.
His breakthrough performances augur well for Malaysia as the cyclists look ahead to put up a creditable show in the road race discipline of the New Delhi Games under the guidance of Will Walker.
The programme for the national road riders was revamped following a disappointing outing at the Asian Championships in Sharjah in April with the hiring of Walker and he is being assisted by former national cyclist Fairoz Izni.
Hariff was destined for bigger things after winning the Asian Championships gold medal in the men’s scratch race in Thailand in 2007 but he did not make any big impact since then.
From his form in Australia, the 21-year-old appeared to have put those troubled days behind him.
The Malaysian National Cycling Federation (MNCF) deputy president, Datuk Naim Mohamad, said that Hariff was showing tremendous improvement along with the others, including Amir Mustafa Rusli.
“Hariff also won the Final Stage in the Tour of Gippsland earlier this month while Amir earned a couple of podium finishes,” he said.
“Hariff and Amir are based in Melbourne and they compete in track endurance events as well and they are reaping the results after almost a year there.
“Hariff is doing well in sprints and he will be an asset to the road squad in New Delhi. We have Anuar Manan, who is also an excellent sprinter and with good support from his team-mates, we hope to put up a good performance.
“Our cyclists have showed they can be competitive against the Australians in their national road series and this is something we hope to take further.”
World junior championships bronze medallist Adiq Husainie Othman will also be competing in the road and track endurance events alongside Akmal Amrun, Amir and Hariff.
With Tour of Langkawi stage winner Anuar, Hariff and Adiq assured of places in a six-man strong road squad, the remaining slots are expected to be filled by Amir, Yusrizal Yusoff and Shahrul Mat Amin.
The men’s elite track squad will be at full force, led by world championship keirin silver medallist Azizul Hasni Awang. The others in the team are Rizal Tisin, Edrus Yunos and Josiah Ng.