Coming around the tight hairpin, wheels fought for a piece of tarmac. I’m amongst a peloton of around thirty-five riders, with just three kilometres to go. Shouts of ‘hold your line’ as rider’s scrap for position. Ahead of us lies only straight road to the finish line. My heart was now bursting at 178 bpm, my blood full of adrenaline as I dig deeper, asking more from my legs to accelerate out of the corner. Racing in Singapore was here, and I felt alive.
On Sunday March 13th, a re-invented Singapore Cycling Federation (SCF) saw their first event; The OCBC Road Race on Seletar’s North Link. The fast circuit proved a huge draw card as three hundred riders and hundreds of spectators converged on the location in a powerful demonstration of community. Yes, Singapore cyclists of all genre were out celebrating, together. It was a day full of spokes and smiles, and I loved it.
Earlier in the day I was met with surprise, as the main hairpin was a hundred metres back from the traffic lights. Making for an even tighter corner as riders came down off the bridge that housing the start finish line. Watching the juniors race, it was evident that the turn was going to be a delicate one. Riders would have to fight for their line before powering back over the bridge to set off on their next lap.
The six kilometre circuit lays beside Singapore’s original international airport, Seletar. The long wide roads that loop around the outside of the airport are frequently used by cyclists of all levels.
Today was a day of celebration, Singapore had endured almost two years since the last racing on home turf. It was also the first test of the SCF new licensing and points framework. Local racers would be fighting for national championship points, and national team selection.
Amongst the peloton the vibe was electrifying. The new age group approach to race categories meant I was racing against a mixed field. Some I’d ridden with before, but many were new faces to me. My natural instinct was to grab onto familiar wheels like James Clark of Specialized Mavericks, Michael Neart of matadorRacing, and Le Messie of Cycle Siow.
Throughout the race I was in learning mode. My primary goal was to conserve energy by staying out of the wind, but with only one year’s experience, that goal proved tougher than expected. The key to the race was learning the lines one would take through the twelve hairpin turns, as these would prove the to be the straw that broke the camels back for many riders as the peloton accelerated hard out of every turn. With each lap I felt stronger, laps four through six I could comfortably get myself onto the front
The advantage of a tight circuit is we could see the other races on the road. For us that was the Men’s Sport (19-34-year-old) and the Men’s Super Masters (45 and above). Stephen Ames of the Specialized Mavericks was punishing the Super Masters field with a time trial like breakaway. The Mavericks would eventually go on to take first, second, third and fourth in that category. The Men’s Sport however proved to be a little more challenging for us, as our peloton caught them on lap three. Giving the Commissaire the job of safety guiding us past. It caused a huge amount of confusion as we were neutralized in the approach to the far hairpin. A safe choice, but it just frustrated the lead riders who were keen to get on with the race.
Back on the straight, the Men’s Sport field was neutralised and we were instructed to pass. At the time I didn’t know that my fellow team mate Everett had been caught up in the confusion, hitting the deck hard. So when I looped back around, I saw him lying there at the road side. It’s never easy seeing a teamvmate crash out; it reminds you of the risks we take in our pursuit of speed.
As our peloton rounded the last hairpin, we all knew this would be the business end if the race. The brutal force that everyone put through their pedals saw the field chase the lead riders with a new found energy. By this time, I had two riders I knew I wanted to follow, Brian Johnsen of matadorRacing, or James Clark of Specialized Mavericks. My best guess was their teams were working for them, without any teammates of my own, I would try to tuck into their wheel for a lead out to the finish.
The speed now was pushing up to 60km/h. Not that I knew it at the time, in a group like that there is zero time to look at your computer.
We came around the slight bend, just one kilometre from the finish, James put in a big effort. Fortunately, I had positioned myself nicely, one wheel back on the ride side of the peloton. I responded immediately. James took with him Messie and Adriano (Specialized Mavericks). We had put down some serious watts, and I assumed this would be the final sprint. I was pumped. Here I was in the top four riders with under eight hundred metres to go. But then James looked back over his right shoulder. A sign that he wasn’t going to press on.
I had wrongly assumed that James was the lead out for Adriano. If that was the case, getting on their wheel was a perfect move. But with James easing back, we got swallowed back into the field. Soon I found myself on the inside of the road fighting for position. I saw a gap up the left, but it was shut down by a slower rider. With just four hundred metres to go, I was quickly running out of options.
In those final few hundred metres, everything moves so fast. My legs felt like I could go, but my lack of experience in such a situation meant I struggled to find enough road to make a move.
As we started the climb up the finish and riders pressed hard. I slipped past a few riders, and thought I was sitting in about twentieth. Then metres in front of me, out to my right, a rider went down. I think he knocked shoulders with another and was bumped out to the right and eventually hit the deck. Nick Swallow of the Mavericks was right behind him and had nowhere to go. I watched Nick crash into him and fly over the top. Ouch
Racing is racing, and it involves some risks. We are all aware of it, and we hope that we are never involved in crash. Nick is fine, but it was tough to watch. In the moment, I came off the power and coasted over the final fifty metres coming in twentieth, out of fifty-seven.
I had missed an opportunity, but I was extremely happy with the race. I had learnt a huge amount, and I was keen to race again. Racing is all about experience. It’s great to have the fitness levels, but unless you know how to deploy those in a race, you’re unlikely to see the results you desire. I went into this race with the sole focus of building experience, and I achieved that goal.
My ambition got carried away with me, as I also registered for the Men’s Open race. Just twenty-five minutes after the finish of the Men’s Masters. I made the start line, but my exhausted legs only managed three laps before race organizers flagged me out.
Overall the day was awesome. We finally had racing in Singapore back, and I’m positive everyone, like myself, had caught the racing bug. Over the coming months, I’m going to be doing all I can to see more events in Singapore, and I welcome the help of anyone passionate about this sport. Yes, there were areas for improvement on the day, but as a community it is up to us to take the ‘glass half full’ approach to improving the sport. Dirtraction, OCBC and the SCF should be applauded for putting on the event. It’s now up to all of us to help continue the momentum.
On Wednesday I fly to Phuket for Tour de Phuket. And I can’t wait to race again.
If anyone saw me on the day and has a photo of me, or a tip to help me improve. Please let me know in comments below.
- FIROZ LOH BIN RIDWAN LOH – PRO DEVELOPMENT PROJECT
- LUQMANUL HAKIM BIN OTHMAN
- DARRYL TOK YONG JUN
- LIONEL BOEY – CYCLE SIOW
- LIM WEI JIE – ASCENDERS TEAM
- MOHAMMAD IRWAN SHAH BIN MOHAMMAD ISKANDAR SHAH
- FOONG WEISHENG – CYCLEWHERE
- JASON YEO – CYCLEWORX
- SEBASTIAN VARGUESE – JOYRIDERS RACING TEAM
Men’s Super Masters:
- PAUL CUMMINGS – SPECILAIZED MAVERICKS
- STEPHEN AMES – SPECIALIZED MAVERICKS
- MATT LODGE – SPECIALIZED MAVERICKS
- WILLIAM KINGSLEY JAY PRATT – ALLIED WORLD-CCN
- CRAIG CAMERON – SPECIALIZED MAVERICKS
- MOHD RAZIF BIN MOHD SALLEH HARDING – MTB RACING TEAM
- ASHLEY JENNA LUI – SINGAPORE CHINESE GIRLS SCHOOL
- CHUA KAH KAH ESTHER – CYCLEWORX
- WINNIE YEUNG WING YEE – JOYRIDERS
- WENDY YAP – JOYRIDERS RACING TEAM
- CHRISTINA LIEW YS – TREKNOLOGY CYCLEDELIC
- ELIZABETH MAY HODGES – SPECIALIZED MAVERICKS