SINGAPORE - When the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) won the inaugural OCBC Cycle Speedway Corporate Championship in 2017, their victory took them by surprise.
The category did not feature last year, but has been reinstated and team leader Ahmad Ridhwan Dahlan, 33, and his fellow cyclists are not taking anything for granted as they prepare to defend their title.
He said: "This year, our training intensity will be higher and we're going to go a few levels up because there's a lot of pressure on us."
The SCDF face stiff competition from OCBC, pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline and semiconductor company Advanced Micro Devices, which were second, third and fourth in 2017.
Ridhwan and fellow SCDF officer Shuhrawardi Hussain had decided to join the contest two years ago just for the experience of racing.
They then roped in fellow firefighters Syed Amir Haziq, 32, and Suhardi Sa'ad, 39. Fifth member Yazid Amir, 31, joined the team this year.
The team train twice to thrice a week, cycling about 40km each time along Tanah Merah Coast Road or in Yishun. They also cycle some 46km on weekends with their riding group.
Leading up to the May 11 race, Shuhrawardi, 40, said the team will be focusing on building their strength and stamina as the qualifying round, semi-final and final all take place on the same day.
"We're doing speed training now and we'll have to do more hill workouts to build our strength," he said.
"Right now, we don't know what our breaking point is. We might go all out, but we may not have the right energy or speed in important moments. That's where the fitness part comes in."
He also stressed the importance of strategising. In the Speedway Championship, a team is split into two pairs and each pair cycle five 1km laps along Stadium Drive.
He noted: "All of us have our strong points. Some are sprinters while some are catchers so we will try to balance that out. My job is to create trouble for the other teams."
Explaining further, Ridhwan said: "We're going to have something like a decoy. Shuhrawardi will go 100 per cent alone so that the other teams will chase him while I relax. When the other teams chase him, they will get tired and then we will swop and make them chase me.
"I really like the format because it's a relay so it's a team effort.
"I'm looking forward to doing our best, showing more teamwork and tactics and techniques we've learnt in the past two years."
Ridhwan added he hopes to promote cycling to the public. He said: "Cycling is a good sport for everyone to do and it keeps you fit. We do it to keep ourselves active and, from a hobby, it became our passion."