KUALA LUMPUR: Having grown from strength to strength after their creditable debut in 2017 at the Le Tour de Langkawi (LTdL), Malaysian UCI Continental Team Sapura Cycling Team (SCT) are confident of a better showing in this year’ edition on March 18-25.
The team's preparations have also been more serious after adding local coach Fairoz Izni Abdul Ghani to their stable, apart from retaining Mahazir Hamad.
The outcome has seen the team produce uplifting results in races leading up to LTdL, where several of their riders stepped on the podium in international races.
Having kicked off their preparations with several local races, the riders entered three races overseas since January - the Asian Cycling Championships in Nay Phi Thaw, Myanmar, the Tour of Indonesia, Tour of Mediterranean and the Grand Prix of Antalya in Turkey.
SCT manager Sayuti Zahit said based on the more extensive preparations, they have set higher targets in the race with Colombians Victor Nino and Wilmar Jahir Perez banked on as their challengers in the general classification.
"With these two Colombians, we hope they can improve on their positions last year where Victor was placed 18th while Wilmar finished 19th in the overall general classification.
“They were just behind the winner of the Cameron Highlands stage, Mekseb Debesay (Dimension Data). We hope this time, both riders can produce better teamwork in the Cameron Highlands stage which will be the deciding round for the general classification," said Sayuti.
From the preliminary start list, SCT will feature Malaysians Zawawi Azman, Nur Aiman Mohd Zharif, Adiq Husainie Othman, Nino, Perez and Indonesia's Aiman Cahyadi.
SCT are also contemplating the inclusion of Swiss rider Dylan Page, who has produced inspiring results for the team, to add a further dimension.
Sayuti admitted that the team's management are now eyeing bigger targets of bagging a stage win in LTdL through sprinter Page, who has bagged several podium finishes in the Tour of Indonesia and Tour of Mediterranean.
"However, the decision on whether Page will start LTdL 2018 will be made when the team returns from the Tour of Mediterranean because despite the team's objectives of providing exposure for young local riders, there is no denying that the results at the end of the race are also important.
“It will all be announced several days before LTdL 2018 starts," said Sayuti.
This year’s event will feature eight stages, covering a distance of 1,341km.