This year’s OCBC Professional Criterium was held 1st time at night under the flood lights on the Singapore Formula One circuit. Even though the race is not UCI classified event but good appearance money even better prize money plus 5 stars accommodation at Singapore’s Conrad hotel attracted many top professional riders and teams like Carmon Meyer and Jack Bobridge who just broke the 15 years 4k pursuit record of Team Garmin-Cervelo, Androni Giocattoli of Italy, Team Type 1 and US Crit Champion Dan Holloway from Kelly Benefit of USA, Rapha Condor of UK, Drapac and Fly V of Australia. Asian teams included Terengganu Pro-Asia and Champion System. Total 87 starters included last year’s winner Ben Kersten from Fly V. As typical Pro Criterium races would end in bunch sprint, so TSG sent team’s 2 best sprinters Anuar and Hariff, as well as 2 of our Japanese riders Shinichi and Motoi.
90 minutes of racing seem to be short for pro cycling racing but in a tight 1.7km circuit, the race will be difficult to predict and control. With no neutral lap, riders was going at maximum RPM and attacking from the gun. With so many good sprinters in the race, teams without top sprinter decided the only way to spoil the party is making the race as fast as possible from the start in order to drop as many riders as possible. The tight course and extreme high speed under limited lighting were giving many riders problem. Riders were starting to shad from the peloton after just several laps into the race. One rider from Team Pureblack Racing (NZ) created a small gap at about half way point into the race but was only able to hold it for several laps due to the blistering chase pace from the peloton. A group about 8 riders from several major teams including Champion System, Androni, Fly V, Drapac, Rapha, Garmin, Subway counter attacked with about 30 minutes of racing remaining, the small group build up a half lap gap and looking to be very fast and dangerous. However, the peloton pace was even faster and was determined to bring the escapees back. Many big riders including last year’s race winner Ben Kersten and Jack Bobridge were all pulled out.
Our team’s rider Shinichi and Anuar were both spent due to the early hard chases and Harrif suffered from stomach cramp, so all there were not in having a good day or good night of racing. The task fell on the shoulders of Motoi Nara, despite having done only 2 days of racing this year Motoi was able to hang with the very selected remaining “peloton” of just 47 riders and won the best Asian classification. Omar Bertazzo from Androni out sprinted Dean Windsor of Rapha and Cameron Meyer to take the win, while Mathias Friedmann of Champion System won the King of Sprint classification.
Photos courtesy of OCBC Cycle, Terengganu ProAsia, SH Lim, Ratna Gillilang, Wendy Leong and the PRelements