Cycling: Trials to seek out talented cyclists set in motion

Triathlete Winona Howe (in black) and former S-League player Hilmi Azman were put through their paces on a stationary watt bike yesterday. The two are among 145 cyclists hoping to get a place in the national training squad.
Triathlete Winona Howe (in black) and former S-League player Hilmi Azman were put through their paces on a stationary watt bike yesterday. The two are among 145 cyclists hoping to get a place in the national training squad.ST PHOTO: JOYCE FANG
Race winners awarded yellow jerseys: Winners of the first OCBC Cycle Road Race posing with their yellow jerseys yesterday. From left: Lin Kai Hong, Firoz Loh Ridwan Loh, Ashely Jenna Lui, Paul Cummings, Wendy Yap, Foong Wei Sheng and Lionel Boey will
Race winners awarded yellow jerseys: Winners of the first OCBC Cycle Road Race posing with their yellow jerseys yesterday. From left: Lin Kai Hong, Firoz Loh Ridwan Loh, Ashely Jenna Lui, Paul Cummings, Wendy Yap, Foong Wei Sheng and Lionel Boey will have to wear their jerseys at the upcoming OCBC Cycle National Road Championship, to be held on May 22 and 29. The March 13 event was the first of four races organised by the Singapore Cycling Federation to be held this year. Competitive riders are awarded points that contribute towards a national ranking. Points are awarded to the top 10 finishers in each race category.ST PHOTO: JOYCE FANG

Cycling has launched a nationwide talent identification programme, with the aim of unearthing promising riders who can join the national training squad and go on to represent the country.

"This is different from the past, where selection was based on results only. There was no benchmarking, no selection trials. This is a new requirement," said the Singapore Cycling Federation's (SCF) sport and technical manager Samuel Yang.

The move is another big step the sport has taken in recent months following the election of new leaders last year.

In March, the OCBC Cycle Road Race, part of a four-race series to give riders more regular competitive action, was organised. It attracted more than 300 enthusiasts.

As of yesterday, 77 of 145 hopefuls had been put through the selection trials organised by the SCF. The remaining 68 will be tested by June 11.

A total of 30 cyclists - 15 male and 15 female - will be shortlisted for the national training squad by the third week of July.

The trials involve the use of a stationary watt bike, where coaches will be able to conduct power profiling of cyclists.

Through the tests, coaches are able to determine the cyclist's fitness levels as well as find out their muscle composition. The cyclists are tested on three main energy systems.

"We have the six-second sprint that will test the immediate energy system, 30-second sprint that tests the anaerobic energy system and a four-minute all-out exercise that tests the cyclists' aerobic energy system," said Yang.

SCF's coaches are hoping that this new trial system will be able to help them better classify their pool of road riders.

Head coach Adrian Ng explained: "We want the right guy for the right race. Of the 15, we are looking at having three time trialists, two climbers, five sprinters and five who can compete in general classification."

Ng added that the current crop of national cyclists will have to meet the mark on the watt bike tests too.

He said: "Current national cyclists will be put through the tests and be part of the 30 in the national training squad if they make it. It's the same thing for them.

"However, not everybody is indispensable.

"It's fitness first for us, but if you cannot make it along the way during training we will swop you out. There are many variables."

National cyclist Vincent Ang cheered the implementation of the new system. However, he warned that data from the watt bike tests might not translate to performance in races.

He said: "It's fair, everybody has a shot. There's a lot of talent out there.

"Data is the first step but there are cases where someone's data might be good, but he just cannot perform in the race."

A few athletes from other sports have also thrown their hat into the ring, including decathlete Lance Tan, who represented Singapore at last year's SEA Games on home soil, triathlete Winona Howe and former S-League winger Hilmi Azman.

Ng has been satisfied with the performances on those on trial so far, pointing out that there have been one or two gems.

"Singapore definitely has talent based on what I've seen," he said.

"Some haven't been up to standard, but there were some surprises, showing exceptional readings (on the watt bike).

"Based on their current watt bike readings, we may be able to get one guy in medal contention within South-east Asia in the time trial category."

Once shortlisted, the training squad of 30 will prepare for three main regional competitions - the Asian Cycling Championships and SEA Games which take place next year, and the Asian Games in 2018.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 13, 2016, with the headline 'Trials to seek out talented cyclists set in motion'. Print Edition | Subscribe