Cycling: Mountain biker Riyadh Hakim claims second podium finish in a month

SINGAPORE – With 100m to go in the Opet Mugla Cup Eliminator (XCE) Race final in Marmaris, Turkey on Sunday (Oct 31), national mountain biker Riyadh Hakim looked on track to finish second of four finalists.

But having just completed a big jump 100m back to move to second, he started tiring, allowing others to overtake him.

He eventually finished fourth in 2min 20.18sec to secure a podium spot, which is awarded to the top five finishers. German Felix Klausmann won the race in 2:17.38.

While Riyadh, 22, was disappointed not to finish higher, he was still pleased with his second podium finish in a month.

On Oct 3, he became the first Singaporean to podium at a UCI Mountain Bike Eliminator World Cup, finishing fifth in the Barcelona leg.

He said: “Getting a podium is something that will excite anyone. I’m definitely feeling super happy.

“This course had a lot of long straights and you have to conserve your energy for the final sprint so I kept reminding myself to be smart and not fall into the trap of other opponents because I should conserve as much energy as possible.”

After a fruitful three-month stint training and competing in Europe, Riyadh and his coach Junaidi Hashim will return to Singapore this week with many lessons learnt.

They were supposed to return after his race in Barcelona but stayed for another month after receiving an invitation to compete in two competitions in Turkey.

Riyadh’s time there saw him racing almost every weekend, which he appreciated after not competing in the past one-and-a-half years.

Riyadh, who in 2019 became Singapore’s first gold medallist at the Asian Cycling Championships, said: “One of the biggest game changers is in the physiological part like I’ve learnt to properly take care of my body by getting good nutrition before and after races.

“That plays a big part especially if you want to compete at the highest level. With all the racing I’ve done, I’ve also improved my race craft and tactics. While racing at such a high level, we also talked to other competitors who have shared their experience and their tips for racing with us.

“Being able to race every week pushes your body to the limits as it gets used to the high intensity and it’s good for pushing that mental barrier that you sometimes feel in training.”

He now wants to improve his endurance and fitness in the hopes of qualifying for next year’s SEA Games in Hanoi and Asian Games in Hangzhou.

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Junaidi was pleased with Riyadh’s progress in the last three months and glad he extended his stint as Riyadh competed in a multi-stage race, the Roc D’Azur 2021 in France, for the first time.

The 39-year-old said: “This (five-day race) is tough so it helps to build his strength and endurance. It was a good learning curve and experience for him.

“Being with him for the past three months, I’ve seen how dedicated and focused he is. Even with basic things like sleeping early, waking up early and eating well.

“He’s a good athlete. Now we just have to work on weaker points like his physiology so when we’re back in Singapore, we’re going to work with the people at the Singapore Sport Institute to do some tests and work on our training plans for next year.”

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