In recent years, Singapore’s cyclists keen to experience the more competitive side of the sport have had to dig out their passports and travel off-island, with the closest racing options being at least a ferry ride away on the Indonesian islands of Bintan and Batam – or over the causeway in Johor Bahru, Malaysia.
The impressive and unrelenting drive for growth and development in Singapore meant that roads that had once been accessible and usable as race-circuit venues had disappeared under a mountain of construction and red tape, and local racing opportunities dwindled to virtually nothing.
With significant effort and concerted lobbying, Kent McCallum and his Cycosports team have been making headway in turning this situation around. Over the last 12 months Kent has been working together with the many different arms of the Singapore government, as well as community groups and cycling clubs, to uncover more opportunities for showcasing cycling in all its forms. This has led to an integrated approach to The Car Free Sunday (CFS) initiative, a URA (Urban Redevelopment Authority) project designed to work towards Singapore becoming a ‘car-lite’ city that kicked off as a pilot during 2016. Each last Sunday of the month sees a 5.5km stretch of roads around the civic district and Chinatown closed off to cars, allowing all types of community groups to come together. The project not only focuses on reducing the number of cars in the downtown area and generally developing a greener and more sustainable Singapore, but also encourages all members of the community to take up an active, healthy lifestyle.
Having had a close association with Kent for many years – a Kiwi and fellow cyclist, who owns and operates Bikeplus LBS on Bukit Timah Road – ANZA Cycling was keen to help get things going. What better way to try and get awareness of cycling and bike racing up and running in the city-state than by getting on board with community initiatives – working together on a project that comes with a ready-prepared section of closed road.
ANZA Cycling started out by providing club members who would lead groups of community members and local riders from the heartlands into the downtown area – and generally provide a club presence to show our support. After several months, Kent reported that he would tentatively be able to go ahead with trialling a Criterium-style event (street circuit lap race) in conjunction with the Singapore Cycling Federation, if it were to be held prior to the official 8am CFS flag-off. To help lock in the race, the cycling clubs and teams who were likely to participate in the race looked for ways to provide further contribution and hands-on support. Enter the ANZA Cycling trishaw ‘uncles’ and ‘aunties’!
The first ‘Share the Road’ Criterium was scheduled for the January edition of CFS, with three categories including Open Men, Open Women and Junior. With a good number of participant registrations in, and excitement amongst the cycling clubs building, there were deep sighs of relief as the permit for the racing was finally approved only 24 hours before the race was due to take place.
The cycling club community turned out in full force for the Criterium, which with its short street circuit, featuring tight bends and speedy straights made for an exciting spectator show in the heart of the city. ANZA Cycling members Mike Koreneff (racing as a non-team rider) and Adam Nelson (racing as Allied World) took out the respective 1st and 2nd in the Men’s Open, with Kelvin Khoo (Matador Racing) in 3rd.
ANZA Cycling was well represented in the Women’s race with Stephanie Lim, Shlomit Sorek, Ruth Stubbs and Megan Kinder joining the fun, with the placings ultimately going to 16-year-old Singaporean Ashley Lui (Cyclewerx) in 1st, Christina Liew (Team Cycledelic) in 2nd and Lizzie Hodges (Specialized Mavericks) in 3rd.
The event went off without a hitch, and was all finished up in good time for the racers to then head over to the Padang for the official CFS flag-off. An overwhelming number of club members turned up not only to support the race but to help out by cycling elderly people around the civic district in a fleet of trishaws. The feel-good factor was huge as the queues started forming among the older community members and their families – who were keen to be taken out for a spin by some of the participants (and podium placers) from the early morning race. Adam Nelson proved a very popular trishaw captain with one of the passengers chortling, ‘I cannot understand him but he’s very handsome. I ask him to go slow, so the ride will be long’!
The ‘Share the Road’ spirit clearly inspired authorities to get behind the local racing scene when IM Events Criterium was given the green-light at Choa Chu Kang only two weeks later. The ANZA Cycling women were once again out in good numbers with eight signing up for the race. Congratulations to Andrea Ferschl who finished 2nd over the line to bring her team, complete with Shlomit Sorek, Laura Gordon and Teresa Harding onto the podium in 3rd place!
We are delighted that the CFS ‘Share the Road’ Criterium series has been given the go ahead for the next few months.
ANZA Cycling runs a Newcomers’ Ride on the first Saturday of each month. Email us for more details.
By Megan Kinder