Cycling: OCBC Cycle National Road Championships to be held in Batam for first time this July

Cyclists getting in on the action during the Men's Open category of 2017’s OCBC Cycle National Road Championship at Seletar North Link, on May, 21 2017..
Cyclists getting in on the action during the Men's Open category of 2017’s OCBC Cycle National Road Championship at Seletar North Link, on May, 21 2017..PHOTO: ST FILE

Tougher course makes for more exciting national c'ship and will raise local standards

The OCBC Cycle National Road Championship will be held overseas for the first time this year and beyond simply offering its participants a different challenge, Singapore Cycling Federation president Hing Siong Chen hopes this is the first step to raising the level of racing here.

He said: "The route is more challenging and because it's quite hard to find a course similar to this in Singapore that we can close, we decided to go overseas.

"We also had a lot of feedback from riders who wanted something different from the past three years, where the location was always the same in Seletar."

A total of 260 people have signed up for the event in Nongsa, Batam on July 8. They will compete in seven categories across five distances, with the shortest being 60km (men and women's junior B, women's junior A, women's veterans) and the longest being 120km (men's Open).

Hing noted that the Nongsa Circuit, a 12km loop on roads that will be partially closed for the event, makes it possible for riders to race longer distances.

The Seletar North Link course is approximately 6km per loop, and the shortest and longest distances last year were 12km and 72km.

The Nongsa course with its rolling hills and mountains is a more challenging one than the flat roads of Seletar, and Hing believes this will change the race dynamics.

"With a flat, short, sausage-shaped race course, the outcome of the race for the past three years in Seletar was invariably won by a sprinter in a bunch sprint," he explained.

"With (this year's) terrain, it becomes more tactical and technical - you need more skill to handle the course and more tactical knowledge in deciding when to break away."

The 46-year-old also hopes this leads to higher racing standards here, as the races at cycling's world governing body Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) level are between 100km and 200km.

"This would really help improve our high performance racing because it exposes people to the level of racing that other countries enjoy," he added.

"It's not unheard of for people to go overseas to race regularly, it's just that we're trying to push our national standard to that level. A lot of local riders do go for overseas tours, and we're trying to adopt it as a national standard for ourselves."

Each peloton, the main group of riders, will be escorted by local police and the entourage of peloton support vehicles. Each will start off at different intervals from Batam Centre, with the finish point just before Tering Bay.

National cyclist Lukman Nurhakim, 37, has raced at Nongsa before and is looking forward to the challenge.

"It's a very nice circuit with little traffic and even if you don't close the road, it's still safe," he said.

"(These challenges) prepare local riders better for overseas competitions where there are usually more hills and mountains, which riders from other countries are used to racing on.

"I think most of the riders have raced the Nongsa circuit before, but because it's the national championship, people will be more excited and motivated to do well."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 27, 2018, with the headline 'Road cyclists head to Batam for race'. Print Edition | Subscribe