Cycling: Partnership with pro teams helps cyclists, coaches develop, says SCF chief

National cyclist Chelsie Tan (second from right) racing at the Rodeo Binda 2022 in Italy. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES
Singapore Cycling Federation president Hing Siong Chen (left) receiving a signed jersey and book from Italian professional road racing cyclist Giovanni Battaglin. ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

SINGAPORE - While Singapore's overseas-based cyclists sometimes struggle to make their mark with their professional teams, the country's cycling chief believes the experience is still a valuable one.

The Republic currently has national cyclist Chelsie Tan based with Australian professional outfit Team BikeExchange-Jayco in Europe, while Goh Choon Huat became the first Singaporean to race for a professional team in Europe when he joined the BikeExchange men's team as a stagiaire from July to October 2021.

Tan, who earned a one-year contract extension to race with Team BikeExchange for the 2023 season, was candid about the tough time she endured competing on the International Cycling Union (UCI) Women’s World Tour.

The 32-year-old told The Straits Times that she found the initial period earlier in 2022 “overwhelming” but chose to stay the course. 

Singapore Cycling Federation (SCF) president Dr Hing Siong Chen noted that these experiences are quite important for the cyclists to get exposure to competing against the sport’s best athletes.

He said: “Our riders learn what racing is at the world level, how they train – it’s something that the riders never had the opportunity to experience before.

“So these doors that have opened to us have taught our riders and coaches a lot. This exchange of ideas... is invaluable because it’s something we can’t learn in Singapore because there’s no one in Singapore who has been at that level, to emulate the same kind of training structure for the riders and the coaches.”

Dr Hing was speaking on the sidelines of an event to unveil the latest creations of former Italian cyclist Giovanni Battaglin’s bike manufacturing company, Officina Battaglin.

The 71-year-old Italian won both the Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a Espana in 1981.

While the SCF had previously announced its ambition to register a UCI men’s continental team by 2023 to compete locally and in South-east Asia as part of its initiative ProCyclingSG, Dr Hing said that it does not have the war chest required for that at the moment. 

Therefore, the lessons that individuals pick up from these stints are important.

He recalled how he was impressed by the professional set-up of Team BikeExchange – who are SCF’s performance partner – when he visited their facility in Varese, Italy, where they had many bikes and different buses for their tours and races.

“It’s something that we can aspire to learn. We have our ProCyclingSG vision – we’ve wanted to set up a continental team. This is one way of developing it,” said Dr Hing.

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