There’s a special kind of satisfaction in watching underdogs snatch victory from the crowd favourite in any competition, against all odds. It’s the sort of success story that is extremely relatable to many, spurring the determination to succeed in everyone and anyone that has felt like they maybe aren’t good enough, aren’t fast enough or aren’t strong enough.
This is the story of Sabah’s state cyclists, who are now making their mark in Malaysian track cycling.
Newly rebranded as Cycology Sabah Racing, the team recently won six golds, one silver and three bronze medals at the CIMB National Junior Cycling track series from March 12-15th. Amazingly enough, the team first set foot in a velodrome in February 2018, barely over a year ago, when they took part in their first ever track cycling competition at the National Velodrome in Nilai.
And all this from an outfit that has had to make do without access to any proper track training facilities.
Today, they are currently ranked third in the CIMB National Junior Track Cycling Championship behind Terengganu and Kedah. Their coach Louis Pang is understandably ecstatic. “Ladies and gentlemen, pls let that sink in for a second,” he said recently, while officiating the launch of the team. “From complete newbies...to 3rd ranked track cycling team within a year, it is like Kenya coming third in the Winter Olympics behind the USA & Russia!”
He beams with pride when talking about his young proteges, like a proud father seeing his children finally coming close to reaching their dreams. He reveals that it is the very lack of resources that have given rise to innovation, new training methods, a can-do spirit and an unbreakable bond. “We are not victims,” he says. “We are victors!” This war cry works fairly well in the current context, judging by how far they have come.
“There are so many interesting stories about the team, if you really dig deeper. They’re great kids,” he said, gesturing at the four teenagers climbing on to the training bikes at Cycology’s FTP test area. “They’re only 16 - 18 years old, can you believe it? They’ve got amazing discipline at such a young age, they’re never late for training, they put in the work and help out each other, it’s a real sense of family.” Indeed, the team spirit runs strong in this outfit, born out of a desire to overcome their existing disadvantages to achieve something great.
Meanwhile, Cycology founder Daniel Yap admits that this was a huge factor in his decision to support the team. “I love the underdog, it makes a good story,” he admitted, clearly excited with the possibilities to come. “But it’s not pure luck that they are getting results. They have a very strong team spirit, combined with a proper training methodology that is based on solid scientific principles and a strong coach that is willing to go the extra mile for the team. I decided to take the plunge too.”
“Ultimately as I said in my speech. It’s about meeting of the minds. Both organisations have a kindred philosophy. We both employ the same methods for our trainees, albeit at different levels. So we had many discussions and I offered them a place to train when they came to KL for competitions.”
But just like the team, this partnership is not something that happened overnight; it was in the works for a while. Daniel admitted that the Sabah team first caught his attention just before Sukma last year (2018). “I met Louis before that. He was buying some equipment like power meters and also asked about Wahoo Kickrs. It intrigued me, as we at Cycology fully believe in training with power.”
The result of this carefully curated training programme? Quite recently the team clocked 4:26.079 in the team pursuit which is just 2.5seconds behind what the Malaysia national cyclists achieved at the Asian Championship 2019 in Jakarta in January. They’re now hoping to continue challenging national benchmarks, and help promote a new and higher standard for Malaysian cycling.
And despite posing as possible rivals for spots in the Malaysian national team, national coaches are fully supportive of these efforts, as part of their commitment to encouraging grassroots development in the sport.
The core team of four riders who were there on launch day – Bong Yong Xian, Darren Chong, Waldron Chee, Lim Chun Kiat – are now preparing to relocate to Kuala Lumpur alongside their coach Louis, where they will have access to the National Velodrome and to compete in more races. Cycology Sabah Racing Team are now preparing for the 2019 Taiwan Cup Track International Classic in May and the National Track Championship in July.
But they do have their eyes on a bigger prize, according to coach Louis. “The ultimate goal for Cycology Sabah Racing Team is not to beat other state teams, we want to be the standard bearer in Malaysia. We are officially the 2nd fastest team in the country in 2019 and we aim to break the national record in Team Pursuit & Individual Pursuit by 2020.
Overall, Cycology Sabah has received RM300,000 sponsorship in cash and kind from Cycology, Cyclist Wardrobe, Pedla, Freitag, Fitlion, Laka, Azam Jaya, LifeWater, Gleneagles Kota Kinabalu and Cycling Plus Malaysia.