SINGAPORE - The teams competing in the OCBC Cycle Speedway SEA Championships had not only one another to contend with on Saturday (May 11) at the Singapore Sports Hub, but also bad weather.
A thunderstorm in the late morning made the roads surrounding the Kallang hub slippery, which made it difficult for some riders to negotiate bends and turns during the race, which is part of the OCBC Cycle event.
But, with careful riding, the Philippines - runners-up last year - won the 2019 edition in 19 min 19.55sec, just 0.03 seconds ahead of Malaysia (19:19.58). Vietnam was third (19:20.48) while Singapore exited the nine-team competition in the preliminary round.
In this race, a team of four cyclists will ride a total of 10 laps - two riders will complete five rounds of a flat 1km route before passing the baton to their teammates - and the winning time is the average of that posted by the latter two cyclists.
The Philippines captain John Mier, 26, said: "We feel very happy because we did our best and achieved our goal of being the champions. We didn't expect the win because the other teams also had very strong cyclists.
"The rain was also a problem because the roads were slippery at the corners so we had to take care and slow down at the corners."
Mier and his teammates were second to Thailand and Malaysia - which traded leadership of the race - in the first five rounds, but fell to fourth at the changeover before the sixth lap.
But the Filipinos caught up with the leaders by the seventh round and were neck and neck with Malaysia in the penultimate round, and clinched the title after their riders finishing first and fifth in the four-team final.
"Our strategy this year was to keep our two fastest riders as the third and fourth riders and we had one man in the front and the sprinter in the back," said Mier.
Vietnam captain Phan Hoang Thai was pleasantly surprised his team finished on the podium on Saturday.
The 21-year-old said: "It's our first time here and today we worked well with each other. Together we all gave our 100 per cent. We hope that next year when we come back we'll be able to win the race."
Meanwhile, in the OCBC Cycle Speedway Club Championships, defending champions Specialised Roval Mavericks Team B defended their title in 17:49.39.
The Mavericks entered two teams this year and both made the finals, which gave them an added opportunity to reclaim their title in the five-club final.
Team captain Benjamin Arnott, 48, said: "We were lucky that we had two teams so we could work together as a four to create a gap for one of our riders to take the lead. When it came down to the final sprint we just relied on our two final sprinters to get the best place they could in the first and fifth position."
Also, the OCBC Cycle Speedway Corporate Club Championships - which took a break last year - returned with six teams, with GalaxoSmithKline claiming the gold in 19:48.45.
Team captain Alastair Reed, 38, said: "We took it a bit more seriously this year and we had a better idea of the race format and how it works. But I think more importantly we got two new riders that joined us and we've been training collaboratively a lot more than we have in previous years."
OCBC Cycle continues on Sunday (May 12) with the mass participation rides The Sportive Ride (42km) and The Straits Times Ride (23km) at the Sports Hub.