Cyclists ride high, dream big

There is no formula for starting a professional cycling team that can be easily Googled but that has not stopped the Singapore Cycling Federation (SCF) from unveiling its most ambitious plans to date.

With its announcement of a partnership alongside GreenEdge Cycling, SCF president Hing Siong Chen believes the targets of winning an Asian Games road cycling title and having a Singaporean rider in the Tour de France by 2030 are realistic ones.

The SCF yesterday launched ProCyclingSG, which will groom a group of cyclists from the national team and put them through a training programme with input from GreenEdge Cycling. The latter is the only professional cycling outfit in the Asia-Pacific that competes on the International Cycling Union (UCI) World Tour, which is the top-tier road cycling circuit.

Explaining one of the key areas that GreenEdge Cycling can help with is technical guidance, Hing told The Straits Times: “We don’t know what we don’t know because we’ve never been there before.

“And here we have this company that (has operated) a small continental team, a UCI continental team and a World Tour Team. They have experience from the lowest level all the way to the highest, this kind of ‘trade secrets’ are not something you can search for on the Internet.

“They are also willing to groom our riders and (offer) overseas exposure and opportunities so that our riders can follow them on races around the world.”

Both organisations have signed a five-year agreement, which will provide Singapore’s cyclists, coaches and clubs with engagement opportunities that include sharing of best practices from Tour de France riders and coaches.

A Singaporean will potentially be shortlisted to join the Mitchelton-Scott men’s team, one of the three teams operated by GreenEdge Cycling, as a stagiaire – an amateur cyclist temporarily riding for a professional team – to train and race in Europe next year.

The estimated cost of this project is $15 million, with its budget for the first year estimated to be $800,000.

ProCyclingSG will be headed by general manager Adrian Ng, who was the SCF’s head coach from 2014 to 2018.

A projected timeline of its key targets to hit over the next 10 years include registering a UCI men’s continental team by 2023 and an Asian Games road medal in 2026.

Hing believes the colour of the 2026 Asiad medal could well be gold, explaining: “The nature of road racing is such that the last five people who reach the end can all possibly win because there are so many factors in a road race, so I see this as a very realistic goal.

“Maybe in 2026 we could be among the last five people to reach the end and we could miss, but I think once we reach 2030 we have a very good chance.”

Its other aims include retaining a core group of 11 riders by 2023. This group will comprise two full-time professionals, two professional guest riders, four semi-professionals and three development riders.

Full-time cyclists will receive a monthly allowance from ProCyclingSG. This ranges from $300 per month for development and junior riders, and $1,500 to $3,000 for semi-pro and professional riders.

The professional riders will train between 25 and 30 hours a week and participate in at least 12 races and four training camps per year.

Said Ng: “We have a selection criteria (formulated with) the Singapore Sport Institute where we’ve identified some of the parameters we’re going to be looking at in terms of physiological level, commitment level and current readiness. With this criteria, we’ll have an objective way of selecting our riders, and they have to come through our national training squad.”

Three members of the national training squad – Samuel Leong, Tim Schmidt and Darren Lim – have been earmarked to be part of this team, though SCF secretary Ronnie Yap stressed selection is an ongoing process.

The trio are determined to achieve their goal of racing professionally.

Recalling how he used to keep late hours and have “no regard for my diet”, Leong, 18, said: “I found myself very lethargic and unable to push myself as hard as when I am fully rested. Now I eat healthier, try to stay away from sweet drinks and always ensure I have enough sleep.”

Lim, 22, added: “We’re not taking our position for granted – we’ll put in as much effort as we can further our dreams and pursue our goals.”

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