Singapore's mountain bikers will be nationally ranked for the first time at the end of this season, with the introduction of the OCBC Cycle National Ranking and Points System for mountain bike events.
Cyclists can gain points by finishing in the top 10 of selected competitions, and points acquired will count towards a national ranking to be determined at the end of the local mountain bike racing season in November.
The same system was implemented for the first time for road events last year.
Mountain bikers can accumulate points from 11 events in the cross-country discipline this year, starting with the Cycosports Jungle Cross 1 on Feb 12.
Hing Siong Chen, honorary secretary of the Singapore Cycling Federation (SCF), said the purpose of a ranking and points system for mountain bike events was to be "more inclusive".
EVENTS WITH RANKING POINTS UP FOR GRABS
IM Criterium: Feb 5
Tour de Phuket: March 17-19
OCBC Cycle Road Team Time Trial: March 26
OCBC Cycle National Road C'ship (individual time trial): May 7
Tour de Barelang: May 13
OCBC Cycle National Road C'ship (criterium): May 21
OCBC Cycle Speedway Club & SEA Championship: date TBC
Nongsa Challenge: Aug 27
MOUNTAIN BIKE EVENTS (pending approval):
Cycosports Jungle Cross 1: Feb 12
E3Sports MTB Performance Challenge: March 12
Cycosports Jungle Cross 2: April 23
E3Sports MTB Performance Challenge: May 28
Cycosports Jungle Cross 3: July 9
OCBC Cycle National Mountain Bike C'ship: July 23
Cycosports Jungle Cross Team Event 4: Aug 13
E3Sports MTB Performance Challenge: Sept 3
Cycosports Jungle Cross 5: Sept 24
Cycosports Jungle Cross 6: Nov 12
E3Sports MTB Performance Challenge: Nov 19
"We wanted to have more races for people, as well as more categories and disciplines for them to race in," he added.
The SCF's vice-president (mountain bike) Syed Mohamed Shariff Syed Abdul Rahman Aljunied hopes new riders will be encouraged to join the mountain bike races because of the new ranking system.
"Maybe we can see some new faces in the national squad after these races," added the 46-year-old.
Zhang Tingjun, last year's cross-country winner in the OCBC Cycle National Mountain Bike Championship, welcomed the ranking system as an initiative that would not only raise the standard of competition, but also level the playing field for athletes gunning for places in the national set-up.
She said: "It's a transparent process that sets clear expectations for athletes and a clearer path in terms of how you can get yourself ranked.
"People will also train more, because they get a better understanding of the importance of each race, so the overall standard of biking will increase."
The OCBC Cycle National Ranking and Points System for road events will also continue.
This year, cyclists can earn points from eight road events - up from four last year - starting with the IM Criterium on Feb 5.
Points will also be awarded for selected regional competitions, such as the Tour De Phuket (March 17-19), Tour De Barelang (May 13) and Nongsa Challenge (Aug 27).
Luo Yiwei, the top female Singaporean at last year's OCBC Cycle Road Series, believes the increase in the number of events will provide valuable race experience, although she pointed out that "not everyone can travel overseas to race".
Hing acknowledged the potential disadvantage to cyclists who cannot compete overseas, but said: "We will continue to review the situation, and we will change the weightage of the races next year.
"Maybe next year, the local races will carry a heavier weightage than the overseas events."
Echoing Shariff's sentiments, he added: "I hope to see a lot of participation and more people joining the SCF and getting involved in the vibrant activities organised."