Cycling: Mountain biker Riyadh Hakim 1st S’porean on the podium at UCI World Cup

Cycling: Mountain biker Riyadh Hakim 1st S'porean on the podium at UCI World Cup

National mountain biker Riyadh Hakim (right) came in fifth at the UCI Mountain Bike Eliminator World Cup in Barcelona.

SINGAPORE – The chase for medals at the UCI Mountain Bike Eliminator World Cup Barcelona was afoot, and national mountain biker Riyadh Hakim had his sights on double European champion Jeroen van Eck and reigning world champion Simon Gegenheimer in the semi-finals on Saturday (Oct 2).

But instead a mistake at a turn ended his hunt prematurely as he crashed out, finishing last of the four cyclists. But the 22-year-old had no time to lick his wounds as he was back at the starting line of the small final less than five minutes later.

Determined to put the crash behind him, he topped that race – which determines overall positions – in 1min 22.82sec to finish fifth overall and claim a podium spot, a first for a Singaporean rider.

He said: “I had nothing to lose in the next round (the small final). Halfway through the first lap, I was still leading and I felt that the gap was quite good.

“I just kept thinking, ‘Don’t blow it, keep pushing till the finish line’. After crossing the finish line, I realised what I’d done. It’s quite a big milestone for any cyclist.”

The race in Barcelona was supposed to bookend his 10-week training stint in Europe, but Riyadh will now extend his stay till the end of October after receiving an invitation to compete in the Sakarya MTB Cup and Turkey Eliminator National Series in Turkey.

Since arriving in Europe in early August, Riyadh has trained and competed in eight races in preparation for next year’s SEA Games in Hanoi and the Hangzhou Asian Games.

His first race at the UCI Mountain Bike Eliminator World Cup in Leuven, Belgium was an eye-opener as he got to see what it was like racing at the highest level.

He said: “High-level racers are much stronger so it really pushes you above your limits every single race and that is something that we lack in the competition in Asia and you won’t improve that greatly because you’re always riding within your limits.

“Every race, I gave my 110 per cent. In my mind, I told myself that I’ve already gone so far and so many people have supported me to do this, so I wasn’t going to give up just because I was tired.”

Riyadh, who in 2019 became Singapore’s first gold medallist at the Asian Cycling Championships, feels the trip has been crucial for his development as he was able to race against the world’s top cyclists and experience different trails.

The stint has helped his race tactics and he has learnt to pace himself during races, he added.

Riyadh’s coach Junaidi Hashim was glad that he got the opportunity to embark on this training stint, especially with the postponement and cancellation of competitions in the past one-and-a-half years.

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