The Kuala Lumpur SEA Games are 10 months away. But for Singapore Cycling Federation (SCF) head coach Adrian Ng, breaking Malaysia's regional stranglehold on the sport begins today at the OCBC Cycle South-east Asia Speedway Championship.
The Malaysians are defending OCBC Cycle champions, having comfortably won last season's inaugural edition. And despite sending a new-look squad, they will start as favourites for the team relay event at the Singapore Sports Hub.
Fauzan Ahmad Lutfi, a 2013 SEA Games 100km team time-trial bronze medallist, is the sole survivor from the previous team. But he is confident his new team-mates have the calibre to take home the $6,000 winners' cheque.
The 30-year-old said: "We've been training very hard, almost every day, and this team have the talent to do as well as last year's side. We have to maintain our position as the No. 1 cycling country in this region."
Malaysia, who won two of the three men's cycling events at the Singapore SEA Games last year, were drawn in Group 1 alongside Myanmar and Cambodia.
Last year's OCBC Cycle runners-up Singapore will face Brunei and the Philippines following yesterday's official draw ceremony.
WHAT A WIN WILL DO
It will give us the belief that we can beat Malaysia... We've done as much as we can; we are hyped up and ready to race.
HO JUN RONG , Singapore's captain, on the importance of winning at the OCBC Cycle today.
The club category will feature 15 local cycling outfits. The teams will compete in a format similar to the criterium.
Four riders from each team will complete 10 laps around a 1km looped course along Stadium Drive, outside the National Stadium.
The first two cyclists will cover the first 5km before the next pair complete the race. The time taken is clocked when the last rider of each team crosses the finish line.
Aside from national cyclists Junaidi Hashim and Ho Jun Rong, the hosts are also fielding new blood in Gabriel Tan, Raymond Quek and Irsyad Marican following a revamp of the SCF's selection process through open trials that saw an initial pool of hundreds.
Said Ng: "We have 37 road cyclists as part of the national squad which is much bigger than before and offers us a wider base to pick from."
This will be the first time Irsyad is representing Singapore on the international stage and the 27-year-old is hoping a good performance will enhance his chances of making the cut for next August's SEA Games.
The Republic bagged two SEA Games bronze medals last year.
Team captain Ho believes a victory this afternoon will lay down a marker. He said: "It will give us the belief that we can beat Malaysia... We've done as much as we can; we are hyped up and ready to race."
About 6,800 riders will hit the roads this weekend for the nation's biggest cycling event. Most will take part in tomorrow's Sportive Ride (42km) and The Straits Times Ride (23km).