Bike race organiser says he takes 'full responsibility'

Bike shop owner Eric Khoo says he organised the races out of passion for fixed-gear cycling and to build community spirit around it. He says he was the sole organiser for all eight races.
Bike shop owner Eric Khoo says he organised the races out of passion for fixed-gear cycling and to build community spirit around it. He says he was the sole organiser for all eight races.ST PHOTO: LIM SIN THAI

The organiser of the illegal cycling race named HolyCrit has said he will "take full responsibility" for any breaches in law.

Avid cyclist and bike shop owner Eric Khoo, 28, and event emcee Zul Awab, 39, were arrested by the Traffic Police on Monday for their suspected involvement in promoting and organising the illegal racing event.

The arrests followed a report on the most recent HolyCrit race, held on Nov 29, in The Sunday Times this past weekend.

Speaking to The Straits Times yesterday, Mr Khoo insisted he was the sole organiser for all eight races between September last year and November this year. He also admitted that he had been in the wrong for not obtaining permits for his events.

"Of course it was a mistake, and I will cooperate with the Traffic Police in their investigations," said Mr Khoo, who was bailed out by his father on Monday night.

"I would also like to apologise to all to whom our event has caused distress, and those who have unknowingly broken the law due to their participation."

Mr Khoo said he understood the consequences of his actions - he could face up to six months in jail and be fined if convicted of organising an illegal race - and could only hope the authorities would recognise that his "intentions were not bad". He said he organised the races not to seek thrills or profits, but out of passion for fixed-gear cycling and to build community spirit around it.

HolyCrit participants all rode on fixed-gear bikes without brakes "as a safety precaution to prevent accidents in cases of sudden braking", said Mr Khoo, and he stressed that "safety is the top priority". All competitors had to wear helmets and proper cycling jerseys, as well as outfit their bikes with safety lights, he added.

He and a team of friends also spent at least two weekends scouting out "isolated roads" before each event. They would sit and observe traffic between 8pm and 2am each time, counting the number of vehicles, he said.

Since news of the arrests surfaced, several HolyCrit race participants and spectators have spoken up online to praise the quality and safety of the events.

Mr Khoo noted that "injuries are common in any sport", but said he is proud that his HolyCrit events recorded no major injuries, and no damage to property.

He had not sought permits from the authorities primarily because of "high costs" involved - Mr Khoo estimated that $25,000 to $30,000 would be needed for requirements such as having ambulances on standby. These, he said, were costs he was unwilling to pass on to participants.

But moving forward, he said he will work towards hosting a ninth edition of the race with a permit in hand. "I do want to legalise this, it is just difficult to get the sponsorships because it is still a new sport, but I hope it will happen."

hpeishan@sph.com.sg