Friday, September 26, 2008
Duarte is the first ever Colombian winner of the title. Our Anuar Manan held on for one and half laps, Fauzan Ahmad Lutfi for six. Out of three years of participations, Malaysia has only had one finisher in the Under-23 World Championships - a self-funded Ng Yong Li, riding alone in 2006, finishing 122nd out of 156 finishers.
But you've gotta start thinking, and thinking how far behind we are. Duarte is 22 and has been a pro since he was 19. The closest we went was Yong Li breaking into the European scene as a 19-year old in 2005 and turning pro at 21 last year.
Sure it is far too difficult for the faint hearted, but Malaysian losers have given up long before they even got started. So, it is up to the individuals, the private ventures, the real fighters to carry on and look at how we're going to make a breakthrough.
The breakthroughs that are happening on the local front, at least as far a the administrators and 'caretakers' of the sport are concerned, was a meeting to discuss and decide which coach is to handle the national road team, held this afternoon. That, after almost nine months of the national squad having noone in charge. Phew!!
I believe these meetings and more meetings, which follow and come after other meetings, are all they are up to. Well yes, they think they've got enough political ammo in the track sprints squad's thus far successful programme.
Come on. Wake up MNCF and NSC. The world is leaving us behind!!!
UPDATE!! Full results and brief report is up on cyclingnews.com
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
It is my getaway without going on expensive holidays; it is my short drive away to peace from this seriously screwed up world; it is my moment with destiny, when my dreams are fulfilled by God and his most fascinating, unpredictable, yet inspiring creations - fish.
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Check it out on this blog. I particularly like the one for Malacca!!
Sunday, September 21, 2008
The noise he'd made in Malaysia was dwarfed significantly by that made by Anuar Manan (below), who'd romped to two successive points classification wins in Jelajah Malaysia and then only denied Malaysia's first ever stage victory in Le Tour de Langkawi this year, by Seoul City's Lee Won Jae. Anuar is the star road rider Malaysians made for themselves.
But the duo meet in the Under-23 World Championships road race in Varese on Friday, where the tables have been turned even before the start. Malaysia's troubled national road programme meant that Anuar and his sole teammate Fauzan Ahmad Lutfi had to be 'saved' from missing the Under-23 Worlds by samaritan Datuk Astaman Abdul Aziz, who forked out his own cash to foot the bill for the duo to fly to Varese. And then, as I wrote in NST last week.
Anuar and Fauzan. as history of Malaysia's three previous participations in the Under-23 Worlds would suggest, would be lucky to complete the road race in the main bunch, Fauzan luckier to even finish the individual time trial on Tuesday, within the top 30 espoirs in the world.
Duarte meanwhile, or at least I believe so after looking at the start list, should be disappointed if he doesn't return to Colombia with the gold medal. He is the only one in the entire start list with a real reputation at pro level.
Sure, they are worlds apart, as is Colombia compared to Malaysia. But both countries have riders qualified for the World Championships, the annual pinnacle of the sport for national teams, apart from the Grand Tours and the Classics, which are contested by trade teams. Yet some people in Malaysia didn't want to be repesented.
Thankfully, Datuk Astaman realised what bullshit was happening and didn't hesitate to fork out his own money to send a Malaysian team to Italy!!
The Malaysian National Cycling Federation (MNCF) had run out of funds and could not afford to send the team to Italy, despite the national qualified to send five riders based on the UCI Asia Tour nations ranking which has Malaysia second behind Iran. Anuar, Ahmad Haidar Anuawar and Nor Ridzuan Zainal were the top three ranked Malaysians. Of course, all three were Le Tua riders and had nothing to do with MNCF or the National Sports Council.
Suddenly, the usual stuff you here from the big failures in MNCF and NSC, the usual story that our riders are not prepared and not ready for the top level of competition. Okay, we took that 10 years ago and now we keep on asking the idiots who utter those words, "When the fuck will we be ready?!!!"
You can't possibly require 50 years and still not be ready for anything other than trips to Indonesia, Thailand or at the most Asian Games and Commonwealth Games.
Okay, chances of Malaysians winning a World Championships gold, are really, really far fetched. So, if we qualify for the World Championships, we don't go because we can't win? If that was the case, sending 32 athletes to the Olympics was a total waste. We should have just sent LEe Chong Wei, along with his coach Misbun Sidek and a masseur. That would have been enough!!
We have idiots advising idiots and end up with bullshit in Malaysian cycling. This has been going on for far too long.
I am going to state my case right here:
1. Before 2005, no one in the NSC or MNCF believed Malaysians were good enough to become professional riders in Europe. About a little more than RM60,000 was spent and Ng Yong Li signed with Portuguese team Vitoria ASC in 2007, to become Malaysia's first professional rider. You must note, that Yong Li has never been part of any programme under the NSC and was self-funded by his family and friends.
2. The NSC spends millions (and there is proof of this) a year on bicycle equipment, kits for riders and so on. We don't want ot argue with who supplies the stuff, let that be. It is common knowledge that in 2007 the MNCF were given a RM2.3 million grant by the Sports Ministry, which is to be 'managed' by the NSC. Ask around and you will find that that kitty has been emptied. Its okay if they emptied it, but for what results? Have you seen the national team or the MCF Cycling Team, which was formed with track riders out of the budget for that, delivering any wins on the international stage over the past year? NO!!!
The victories came from Anuar and Ahmad Haidar Anuawar, who ride for the Le Tua team, and most recently in the Tour of Thailand, through Trek-Marco Polo rider Loh Sea Keong. Le Tua operates on a budget of less than RM80,000!!! Ah Keong is an amateur signed as a development rider with the Chinese team. Compare RM2.3 million with RM80,000!!!!!!
3. As you know and have grown accustomed to, the root of the problem is in the minds of those running the road cycling programme in MNCF and NSC. Of course, everybody knows, road development is 20 times more difficult than to achieve success on track, but can't we do it? It is proven, that with team's like Le Tua and all privately run initiatives, real cycling people, those who have a heart for the sport and do it mainly for the love, are achieving far more than the 'professionals' in NSC. The results are mindbogglingly clear!!
I would also like to quote a very long serving coach's previous statements in meetings, when requests for NSC funding for Ng Yong Li were made.
"Ini rider tak boleh pakai punya. Tadak guna punya." Can you check the overall result of Le Tour de Langkawi last year and the year before??? Tak boleh pakai? Well, his riders seem to always be preparing, doing foundation work, etc.. While taxpayers continue to pay the price.
Apparently, he is the unparalleled cycling expert within NSC ranks. Everything goes through him. Pheww!! Good luck NSC.
Thursday, September 18, 2008
Wow! Look at what he delivered in Athens and how he's had to pay the price for shortfalls on the biggest stage. Which is not the case here in Malaysia.
We have a track endurance coach, who's only claim to fame was a gold medal in the 1970 Asian Games. His archaic techniques have often been criticised and he's constantly failed to deliver results beyond the Sea Games. But okay, the National Sports Council's big guns are his friends, so he gets to stay for as long as he wants and supply bike parts in the hundreds of thousands of ringgit to the NSC.
To note just how bad our endurance squad is at the moment, despite millions of taxpayers money spent, just look at the Olympic results of the individual pursuit. The lower ranked individual pursuit riders were doing about four minutes 18 or 19 seconds plus. Our TEAM PURSUIT (which was far from even qualifying for the Olympics) national record stands at 4:23... something. That's four riders and the time hasn't improved in the past two years.
In the mean time, riders have had to bear the brunt of failures. I've seen the end of a number of careers in my time as a cycling writer. Somehow or rather, the coach is never wrong. Hey, this is Malaysia and we're really, really serious about sport. Of course, because we spend billions!!!
Sunday, September 14, 2008
I couldn't help but giggle to myself, right from the first of a whole series of sms messages I got from Fairoz Izni Abdul Ghani and Hardi Razali, which began early Saturday morning.
It was all about what was supposed to be a little race at the KL Velodrome late that night, which was cooked up between the duo, with Datuk Malek Maidin, their former national teammate, among the key drivers.
They'd never organised a race themselves - Hardi and Fairoz being among the first cyclists I'd covered during the fledgling years of my little career. So, this race, which eventually costed about a little over RM2,000, was a 'BIG' thing for them. Somehow, I had a feeling they were worried I'd ditch them that night and not arrive at the velodrome. Hahaha... Well, I told them from the start, they can count on my support.
Seriously, it was quite a painful task for these greenhorns to get the show running. But if you read on, you'll see that it eventually turned out into something rather fun and enjoyable for everybody who cared to go, which was roughly about 200 people.
So, sensing the discomfort within the souls of my two friends, I decided to take up Le Tua coach Joe Nayan's invite to join him and his wife for buka puasa at the velodrome.
I was worried that the Uptown night market in the velodrome carpark would be a nuisance to the entry as the night grew, and it turned out so, but nothing stopped the serious cycling fanatics from getting into the track - Shaharudin Jaffar, Datuk Astaman Abdul Aziz and Datuk Naim Mohamad included. Rosman Alwi, who said he'd meet me there didn't turn up though!!
Then, slowly but surely, by about 9.30pm after the first of the riders - Akmal Amrun and Amir Mustafa Rusli - arrived to register, it slowly built up into the race that Fairoz and Hardi had wanted, complete with 'guest star appearances' by Olympians Rizal Tisin and Edrus Yunus, along with their elite sprints teammate Junaidi Nasir. Their coach John Beasley was also on hand, helping out the riders and giving valuable advice to Fairoz. Of the trio, only Rizal contested the race, and of course won the keirin. Junaidi only found out an hour before the race and did well to make it to the track swiftly.
Edrus was there lending a helping hand to the younger riders and did show off some bike handling skills. As you can see below.
Rizal came decked in his Selangor jersey. Long time since he raced in it I suppose... But the centre of attention was his really, really gorgeous BT Stealth bike..
Top road sprinter, Anuar Manan, who's due to leave for Iran to ride with the Azad University team in a week's time, also made himself available and did give the pure track sprinters a run for their money. I fact, he finished third in the keirin, behind Rizal and Harnizam Basri.
In fact, the RM100 that Anuar won for third place, was a historic feather in his big cap, as it was his first pay packet from a track race. What other talents does this 22-year old have!!!!??
In all, it was a strong show of support from the local cycling fraternity. How else could you explain a climber starting a keirin race! Fauzan Ahmad Lutfi did...
Pic: This second round heat had a star-studded cast. First from left is Akmal Amrun, in the middle of the picture is Anuar and Rizal starting side by side. Not wanting anyone to 'touch' his rider, John Beasley aptly helped out Rizal at the start. hehehe....
Pic: And this was the cast for the final. Notice there were nine finalists. and John Beasley was starting Akmal, not Rizal!!
The atmosphere wasn't spectacular. Half the floodlights temporarily went off for half and hour at 10.30pm. But there was some Press, yours truly included. Even RTM made their way and were busy interviewing Datuk Astaman before the start of the scratch race, which was won by Zamani Mustaruddin.
This was the field for the scratch race. Quite a nice number, being briefed by Fairoz before the start..
And if there's any award for a guy who just becomes automatically so generous whenever it comes to cycling, it should go to Datuk Astaman. He'd arrived at the track and enjoyed the race, then brought smiles to the faces of the whole place when he just doubled the prizemoney with another RM800 and Rm200 to the organisers for the next round. Duly, he had the honour of presenting the prizes.
I must say, it was a good start to something seriously good like the Keirin Open. Imagine, it was born out of the frustrations of a young coach and the support of lifelong friends he'd made during his cycling career. Fairoz was having trouble getting the budget approved and released so that he could train his boys and girls at night, under floodlights, during the Ramadhan period. So, some friends got together, pooled together rather, and collectively funded the race out of their own pockets.
There were some big contributors, mostly small contributors. Most, like my boss Vijesh Rai, who'd been smitten by the keirin bug after covering the event at the Olympics and watching our Pockey Rocket Azizul Hasni in Beijing, contributed out of their wish to see more Malaysian superstars come to the fore.
We've held the Asian Championships keirin title for three years now. I guess we're soon on our way to making the keirin, a truly Malaysian event.
Friday, September 12, 2008
If you require a little dose of pride, just go check out the swiftly updated Wikipedia records on Donington Park HERE
You'll see on the right of the page, Lap record 1:17.474s (Fairuz Fauzy, A1 Team Malaysia, A1GP 2008)..
Sure did brighten up my day!
Monday, September 8, 2008
Covered a Press conference held by national coach John Beasley at the National Sports Council today, one in which the Australian announced his aspirations to transform the entire cycling programme into one that's worthy of challenging the world.
First off was a course to train and educate coaches manning the 13 centres of excellence and two academies in the country and bring them up to levels which would deem them capable of producing cyclists of caliber within our own shores.
As usual, I was asked by my buddies from the Press to take charge and lead the way with questions, thus it turned a bit heated as well, when I got a lame answer from NSC's head of development Jefri Ngadirin, for my questions of the lack of local competitions to sustain elite riders under track programmes.
The picture above is that of the back-up sprints squad under coach and former national rider Fairoz Izni Abdul Ghani. I had asked Fairoz what his riders were going to do, and again they were at a loss.
Personally, I expect those in the NSC to go and tell the riders and coaches to shut up and not speak to the Press or anybody about these "sensitive" issues, this country having those fickle minds that run our sport.
But back to serious business, Beasley seems like a good bet to drive a serious reform in how we look at development.
With the coaches well equipped to produce riders of calibre and nurture the talent available, all that is needed is competitions. Well, firstly at least. And to this, the NSC answered they had or were supposed to have three... Yes, I repeat, THREE (3).. this year and "if they weren't able to hold it this year, they'll have it next year". I was fuming inside, puzzled and confused.
Of course, the MNCF too relies on the NSC a bit too heavily, so we can continue dreaming.
Come on, you've got the riders and with 13 COEs, two academies, I'd bet there'd be about at least a hundred riders readily available. So, what can they look forward to? Jefri said there'll be international competitions either this year or next year. Or something like that. The fact remains, there aren't any local track races, so the riders just keep on training if they're above the 18-year old age group, before which they have four rounds of the SportExcel National Junior Circuit for track events. Even that, I must say, was initiated by the Foundation for Malaysian Sporting Excellence (SportExcel) three years ago as a supplement to the road circuit, after being advised by us at the New Straits Times.
Self belief was what Beasley said we needed, as has been proven by Azizul Hasni Awang and Rizal Tisin, since they went under his charge two years ago. But I think we need more than that. WE must firstly WANT to do it. We must WANT to push Malaysian cycling to the next level, and collectively at that.
I'd already been surprised when I walked into the room where the coaching course was conducted, shortly before the Press conference began today, when I found all those regular faces which I've grown accustomed to seeing in all our local races. These are the same coaches that are going to run the show. No offence to them, as all of them are my good friends. But we need new blood as well. New, younger coaches and many of them. It takes a bit more time, said Beasley. So, we'll wait for that.
In the meantime, if any of you are keen to watch some exciting keirin racing in our home court at the KL Velodrome, drop by this Saturday. Fairoz's boys and a few other will be in the Keirin Open, a new series launched by buddies just for the love of the sport.
A few of us, yours truly included, are chipping in. You can too. They'll pass the hat around to collect any amount you wish to donate. That will be the prizemoney.
Fairoz was having a hard time trying to kick the thing off. There was no support from those supposed to be helping it. So, a few friends came in handy for for him.
I think it will be a good thing if Fairoz really gets it started. Let's go help them out, however we can. Just show up at the velodrome at about 10pm Saturday night. Seriously.
Sunday, September 7, 2008
The national road cycling team came home after six days of racing in the Tour de Thailand today. And there's just this proud feeling in me about the victory that our man from Kuala Krai, Loh Sea Keong got on Stage Three of the race last Wednesday.
Anybody who knows the road squad and the riders in it, will know what Ah Keong is all about. He's always been the worker, a really hard one at that. He'd broken barriers to open the eyes of the cycling fraternity.
But yet, until last Wednesday, this 22-year old had only been known for the sacrifices he'd made and the courageous person that he is.
Embedded in my own memory was the way Ah Keong rode in Le Tour de Langkawi in 2006. His Discovery Channel-Marco Polo team had been hard hit from the start, losing their sprinter Sergey Kudentsov through illness before the start of the race, then down went their Chinese rider Xin Yandong. By Stage Two, Marco Polo were left with three riders. Ah Keong had nobody to work for.
From then on, Ah Keong rode like a man possessed. Everyday on race radio, you hear: "Attack, by number 156, Loh Sea Keong, Discovery Channel-Marco Polo." Everytime you hear: "There's now an new attack by a group of riders...." You could be sure number 156 was there.
That picture you see above, was at the end of Stage Seven of LTDL 2006, where Ah Keong was part of an 11-man breakaway and did well to finish seventh. In the meantime, he'd caused a sensation when he attacked solo as the bunch rode into his hometown of Kuala Krai, announcing on the following TV camera: "This is my hometown. I'm from here."
Everytime, Ah Keong rides now, we we can't help but hope for the same thrilling performance. But he doesn't get the opportunity, simply because he's a teammate and works for his team leaders.
So, after doing so much, Ah Keong deserved every bit of his win in Thailand last Wednesday. His first UCI race stage win. And we hope for more to come. Go Ah Keong!!!
Saturday, September 6, 2008
Not too long ago did I hear silly voices saying it is too difficult for our boys to do it. Even now, if you read a blaring example in today's Berita Harian, you can see that even within us, there are people with really weak, colonialistic minds, who think we are a country meant to breed painfully weak people. No, we don't believe that. We must strive, and keep believing we can do it. Step by step.
You don't tell our young and eager riders, they're too young and need to learn a lot more before they step up. That was how it worked when the mediocre athletes we have now and in the past, were coming up. Now, we tell them there's nothing to stop you from going for it. Your time is always NOW. Nobody can tell you you can't do it, or you have to wait a bit longer before you can do it. Life is about trying every single minute of every single day. If you don't, others will.
And just a note to prove the point. Those running the road programme in the MNCF and NSC never believed we could have road riders qualifying for the World Championships, even in the Under-23 category. I can vouch for that for I've been on the ground and gathered the consensus. Just a handful believe so and it was the riders from the ill-funded Le Tua team, who scrapped the bare bottom of any barrel they could find to ensure their riders could continue riding. Quietly, apart from the big bang they served up in the Jelajah Malaysia in January and Le Tour de Langkawi this year, they delivered.
And there, right on the top, you have it. Malaysia, ranked number two in Asia, all courtesy of one little team with big dreams. The Le Tua Cycling Team. They turned out to be the team that single-handedly gathered 85% of the points required to place Malaysia second among under-23 nations in the Asia Tour rankings.
And this, I can tell you my friends, is just the beginning.