Cycling: S'pore's top young cyclists get shot at year-long training, competition stint in Australia

SINGAPORE – In another step forward for the nation’s elite cyclists, the Singapore Cycling Federation (SCF) signed a memorandum of understanding with the Australian Cycling Academy on Tuesday (Nov 16), which will aid talent development here.

The partnership, which runs from 2022 to 2024, will also provide the SCF with opportunities for staff development.

The ACA, based on the Sunshine Coast, is a not-for-profit cycling development programme formed by former Australian professional cyclists Ben Kersten and Matt Wilson in 2017. Cyclists who have raced for its professional team include 2020 Olympic team pursuit bronze medallists Australians 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 races on the UCI Oceania Tour and the cyclists will be announced by the SCF next month.

The selected cyclists will also get the opportunity to race in local events in Australia. They will see an increase in training hours by 25 to 30 per cent, 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 was thrilled to announce the partnership, saying: “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.”

Wilson, chief executive officer of the ACA, 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 male and female riders currently part of 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 cyclists 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 Hanoi 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.”

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