Cycling: National track cyclists end their season with 6 medals at Track Asia Cup

Singapore's Mohamed Elyas Mohamed Yusoff in action at the ACC Track Asia Cup in Bangkok.
Singapore's Mohamed Elyas Mohamed Yusoff in action at the ACC Track Asia Cup in Bangkok.PHOTO: FACEBOOK/THAICYCLING ASSOCIATION

SINGAPORE - Mohamed Elyas Mohamed Yusoff once thought road cycling was a more practical discipline for him to specialise in than track cycling, as there is no velodrome in Singapore.

Today, the 21-year-old has not only won a SEA Games medal and an international competition as a track cyclist, but he is also hoping to qualify for next year's Asian Games.

Slightly more than a month after clinching bronze in the 1km time trial at the August SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur, Elyas won the event at the Oct 6-8 ACC Track Asia Cup in Bangkok, posting 1min 7.300sec at the Velodrome Huamark.

Elyas, the 2016 Singapore national road racing champion, competed in his first track race four years ago at the invitation of Singapore Cycling Federation vice-president (track) Ang Kee Meng, with whom he has been cycling since age 13.

Elyas' father Mohamed Yusoff, a former national mountain biker, owns a bicycle shop and Ang was one of the cyclists who joined the group rides hosted by the shop.

Said Elyas: "At the start, it was because I wanted to try different types of racing.

"But when I started to excel, I thought that if I committed to it, I could go far - and I want to continue to go further."

He hopes his timing from the ACC Track Asia Cup is enough to earn him qualification for next year's Asian Games in Indonesia, as he will miss out on the Feb 6-10 Asian Track Cycling Championships in India owing to national service.

Luo Yiwei, who won the women's omnium in Bangkok, is also targeting Asian Games qualification.

The 27-year-old took gold with 146 points while compatriot Dinah Chan was runner-up with 133.

Luo, who won Singapore's first SEA Games women's track cycling medal when she finished second in Kuala Lumpur, revealed that she had been aiming for a podium finish but did not expect to win.

"After the SEA Games, I just really wanted to ride on the momentum and fitness that I had going into this competition - I didn't have high expectations."

The ACC Track Asia Cup, which also featured cyclists from Malaysia, Thailand and Hong Kong, was the Singapore squad's last major competition of the season. The national track cyclists won two golds, three silvers and one bronze.

They had prepared for the ACC Track Asia Cup by cycling on the roads here as well as on the indoor bike trainer.

Ahead of the SEA Games, they had spent 11/2 months at a training camp in Colorado, where they worked with Andy Sparks, former head coach of the US Olympic cycling team.

At the biennial Games, Singapore's three cycling medals - one of each colour - were won by the track cyclists, with omnium champion Calvin Sim clinching the Republic's first men's cycling gold in 20 years.

Luo, a credit analyst, said: "I think (these results) show that this bunch of people are very committed to doing well... it's always been our dream to have a velodrome to train on so we don't have to go overseas and it would be really nice to have one."

Elyas, who estimates that he spent only two of the last 12 months in Singapore as he prepared for the KL Games, admitted that he had once considered the lack of a velodrome in Singapore a "barrier" to success, but added: "Even though we don't get as much track time as (cyclists from) other countries, there are other alternatives like the smaller competitions at grassroots level in Malaysia and Thailand.

"That's how we started and we progressed from there - we still go frequently and are always open to anyone who wants to tag along."