SINGAPORE - The OCBC Cycle National Championship (Road) returned on Sunday (July 25) to much relief and excitement as the cycling community lapped up the opportunity to compete on the roads again after a year's absence owing to the Covid-19 pandemic.
But this year's edition, held at Aviation Park Road and Tanah Merah Coast Road, flagged off on a smaller scale and without its usual fanfare due to safe distancing protocols amid phase 2 (heightened alert).
No spectators were allowed at the 30km time trial race and event areas, and riders were required to be fully vaccinated or produce a negative Covid-19 test 24 hours before the start of the race, as per Sport Singapore's guidelines.
The number of participants was also cut to 98, compared to 243 in 2019.
Despite the event being scaled down, national cyclist Luo Yiwei, 31, was just happy to be back in the saddle competing.
"After two years from the last national championships, having this race today is a blessing. Since the SEA Games are postponed, this event is a highlight for many of us and a good way to end the season on a high," said Luo, who retained her title in the women's elite category after clocking 43min 32.121sec.
Yeo Boon Kiak, 33, was crowned the national champion after finishing as the top Singaporean in the men's elite race. He finished second in 40:01.217 behind Joel David Liebi (39:14.304) of Switzerland.
He said: "It means a lot to me to get this result today. I actually had to borrow the bicycle I used today from RS Cycles, and they very kindly lent me the bike to train and race with. This result is a good way to repay their generosity."
Noting that the event was executed well despite the strict safety measures, he added: "It's the first time this event is being held during the pandemic, so we all didn't know what to expect.
"While I miss having the support of my friends and family and the carnival atmosphere of past years, I knew I had to focus to get the result."
For Yeo, the race was a good respite from his daily life as a podiatrist. But his female counterpart Luo, a full-time athlete, is already looking to her next challenge at the Track Cycling World Championships in October.
Luo said: "I hope (this result) will motivate me to train hard and do well at the world championships."