SINGAPORE - Regional cycling powerhouses Malaysia retained their OCBC Cycle South-east Asia Speedway Championship title with ease on Saturday, beating finalists Philippines and Brunei to the top of the podium.
Despite a new-look squad that featured just one member from last year, the Malaysians were untroubled in the final, leading wire-to-wire to take the champions' cheque of S$6,000 in 18min 5.283sec.
In the Speedway Championship, held at the Singapore Sports Hub, four riders from each team complete 10 laps around a 1km looped course. The first two cyclists cover the first five laps, while the next pair cover the remaining five laps.
The teams took to the roads after a short rain delay, with the Philippines adopting an unexpected strategy, with its last rider hanging back with the Brunei riders for the majority of the race, eventually being lapped.
But the tactic did not pay off, with Brunei - which finished third last year - snatching second place in a time of 20:07.523. They take home S$4,000.
Said Brunei team captain Azmi Abdul Hadzid: "I'm the only one in my team who competed last year, so I helped to give my team-mates tips and advice on the format of the event. We just supported one another. There was no pressure since wherever you finished in the final you also win something."
The Filipinos finished in 20:17.583 to win S$2,000.
Singapore, which had been hoping to usurp the title from their Causeway rivals, failed to make it past the qualifying rounds. The hosts were drawn with Brunei and Philippines, but had to finish among the top two in the group to make it into the semi-finals.
However, the Republic, led by team captain Ho Jun Rong, clocked 18:31.837 to fall behind Philippines (18:21.920) and Brunei (18:24.060).