Sunshine coast stint for S'pore cyclists

Overseas training, competition opportunities for riders after SCF signs MOU with academy

Singapore's top young cyclists can look forward to more overseas training and competition opportunities over the next three years.

In another step forward for the Singapore Cycling Federation's (SCF) bid to groom talent, it signed a memorandum of understanding with the Australian Cycling Academy (ACA) on Tuesday.

The partnership, which runs from next year to 2024, will also provide the SCF with opportunities for staff development.

The Sunshine Coast-based ACA is a not-for-profit development programme formed by former Australian professional cyclists Ben Kersten and Matt Wilson in 2017.

Those who have raced for its professional team include Australia's 2020 Olympic team pursuit bronze medallists Leigh Howard, Kelland O'Brien and Sam Welsford - who is also the 2019 scratch race and team pursuit world champion.

The SCF will select up to three cyclists who will train and race under the ACA's UCI Continental Team on a ProCyclingSG scholarship next year. The team compete on the International Cycling Union (UCI) Oceania Tour and the cyclists will be announced by the SCF next month.

The selected riders will also get the opportunity to race in local events in Australia. They will see a 25-30 per cent increase in training hours, up from an average of two to three hours a day now, and opportunities to race in 30 to 40 events throughout the year.

In 2023, up to four cyclists will be recommended for the scholarship and year-long contract with the ACA to race in Asia and Australia.

SCF president Hing Siong Chen said: "The partnership is a significant milestone for Singapore cycling as we build on our high performance systems and infrastructure. We also hope to inspire young Singaporean cyclists to continue to dare to dream and to push their performance limits to the next level."

ACA chief executive officer Wilson said: "Singapore has huge potential for cycling growth both in the high performance and tourism and leisure space, and this partnership provides us with strong foundations to be on the ground level with that growth.

"We very much look forward to seeing where the next years will take us."

The scholarship is open to all riders in the national set-up, which includes the national development and national training squads. It will cover accommodation, meals, equipment, coaching and training costs.

SCF high performance director Shayne Bannan said the selection panel, which includes national coaches, members of the SCF committee and himself, are targeting cyclists in their mid-20s and below who show "good potential and good ability" in training.

The selected ones will be primarily based on the Sunshine Coast but their training programmes will be adjusted according to their individual schedules, with other commitments such as school or competitions like the SEA Games in May.

Bannan, who worked with Wilson and Kersten when he was part of the Australian system previously, hopes the opportunity will motivate younger riders here.

The Australian, who joined the SCF in April, said: "I was also impressed by the commitment shown by the riders here, particularly during a tough period with Covid-19, so by building this pathway, it creates a stimulus for them and a form of motivation.

"We're trying to develop a culture that shows there's a possibility to make a career out of (cycling) and combine training, competing and studying.

"It's also a pathway to competing on the World Tour, that's the natural progression. This gives them the tools and preparation to be a World Tour rider one day and also prepare them to represent Singapore in the SEA Games and Asian Games."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 19, 2021, with the headline 'Sunshine coast stint for S'pore cyclists'. Subscribe