By LIM TEIK HUAT
THE lack of funds to construct a velodrome in Vientiane wiped out Malaysia’s chances of a repeat of the four-gold haul at the last SEA Games two years ago.
In Korat, the track cycling trio of Josiah Ng, Azizul Hasni Awang and Rizal Tisin gave Malaysia a clean sweep of the sprint disciplines in the men’s competition while the 4km team pursuit riders made a successful defence of the title.
The Laos Games cycling competitions offer only eight gold medals (four for road and four for mountain bikes) and Malaysia face the frightening prospect of not getting on the top podium for the first time since the 1981 Games in Manila.
Malaysian road cyclists have been living in the shadows of their track counterparts and they finished without a medal in the senior ranks of the Asian Championships for the first time in Kalimantan last August.
However, Anuar Manan (pic), who will lead the Malaysian challenge in the men’s road race, begs to differ.
Suhardi Hassan grabbed the gold in the men’s road race in Manila in 2005 but settled for silver in Korat. And Anuar is all ready to put Malaysia back on top.
Anuar competed in the criterium race in his SEA Games debut in 2005 and was the silver medallist in the event won by Samai Amari of Indonesia.
“Our performance in the Asian Championships was not that bad. It was just that our tactics did not work out on race day,” said Anuar.
“There is a big difference in Laos compared to the Asian Championships in race conditions. In Kalimantan, the race favoured the climbers. The route in Laos is flat and it will suit my style of riding ... I am more of a sprinter.
“I also have more experience after having competed in two previous SEA Games and I hope to meet the challenge to deliver the gold.”
The 23-year-old pro cyclist with Iranian trade team Azad University has been based in Melbourne for the past six weeks.
In Vientiane he will be up against strong riders from the Philippines, Thailand and Indonesia in the chase for the men’s road race gold medal.
Samai, who made news by becoming the first South-East Asian cyclist to win a stage (the fourth) in the Tour of Langkawi early this year, stands out as one of the top contenders. And the Indonesian may again shatter Anuar’s hopes to nail a first SEA Games gold medal.In the mountain bike disciplines, the Malaysian cyclists can consider it a good achievement if they claim the lesser medals. But still it is a tall order, considering that they finished empty-handed in their last two outings in the biennial Games. STAR