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Cycling: G4G’s Oconer wins inaugural T-Cup

Comments / {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}} Views / Tuesday, 11 April 2017 00:00




By Madushka Balasuriya

The first edition of the T-Cup, Sri Lanka’s first cross country cycling event, successfully concluded on Sunday with the Philippine’s George Luis Oconer emerging victorious after three days of competitive racing. 

Despite finishing outside the top 20 (22) in the final stage, Oconer, representing Philippine’s team Go For Gold (G4G), completed the three legs in an overall time of 8 hours 17 minutes and 13 seconds, five seconds ahead of his nearest rival Dutch team CCN Cycling’s Samuel Volkers (8:17:18), to take home the coveted Yellow Jersey.

CCN Cycling however did top the team standings with their riders completing the three stage course in a combined 25 hours and 57 seconds, four minutes ahead of second-placed G4G (25:05:10) and nine minutes in front of the Malaysian National Team (25:10:05) in third.

In the other individual stakes, Malaysia’s Sofian Bakri topped the points standings to win the Green Jersey, while G4G’s Boots Cayubit summited the King of the Mountain standings after securing the most points in the climbing classification to win the Red Polka Dot Jersey. Sri Lanka’s Buddika Warnakulasooriya meanwhile claimed the Blue Jersey as the highest placed Sri Lankan rider, coming in seventh overall. 

Overseas cyclists impress

The event saw riders cycle from coast to coast, beginning their journey in the east coast town of Passikudah, travelling through to Mahinganaya and Kandy on days two and three, and then finally finishing off in the west coast town of Negombo on the third and final day.

Being the first cycling event in Sri Lanka to be held in line with international regulations, the T-Cup also saw for the first time the participation of professional foreign cyclists. Thirteen teams in total took part in this inaugural edition: six foreign teams from Bangladesh, Holland, Malaysia, Philippines, Pakistan, and Singapore and eight Sri Lankan teams represented by the Army (SLA), Navy (SRN), Air Force (SAF), Police (SLP), Dehiwela-Mt. Lavinia Municipal Council (DMMC), Sri Lanka Telecom (SLT) and Bianchi Cycles (BNC). 

The race therefore was expected to be something of a learning curve for the Sri Lankan teams and riders taking part, and so it proved to be the case with the superior preparation and experience of the overseas teams coming to the fore in the first two legs.

Day 1 saw the Sri Lankan cyclists proving little match as several overseas riders made light work of hot and humid conditions en route from Passikudah to Mahiyanganaya, while Day 2 - a gruelling uphill trek from Mahiyanganaya to Kandy that many expected to provide a much sterner test to battle-hardened foreign riders - saw more of the of same.

However, a mixture of the heat and fatigue seemed to play a pivotal role in the third and final leg from Kandy to Negombo as many of the pack leaders from the first two days finished lower down the rankings. This provided several unsung Sri Lankan riders an opportunity to stake a claim to national glory and they didn’t disappoint.

SL riders surge on final day

Sri Lanka Air Force and Sri Lanka Army finished either side of second placed Malaysian National Team (MAS) in the stage team rankings, while six out of the top 10 riders in the final stage were Sri Lankan. Going into the final stretch Sri Lanka Air Force’s Jeewan Jayasinghe, Navin Ruchira and Dane Nugera finished less than a second behind stage winner Hamdan Hamidun of MAS.

Sri Lanka Navy’s Lakshan Pasindu meanwhile was in the running for the Stage Sprint, coming in forth in the first and winning the second, however an unfortunate tumble meant he was ruled out of the race before the third.

The T-Cup was the first cycling event in Sri Lanka to be adjudicated by a panel of reputed UCI (Union Cycliste Internationale) accredited international commissaires with the blessings of the Ministry of Sports and the support of the Cycling Federation of Sri Lanka.

Event organisers Lanka Sportreizen (LSR), the travel agency whose support has played a major role in the growth of the Colombo Marathon, said that they hope the success of the event will lead to, in the next few years, recognition from the Asian Cycling Confederation and registration with the world cycling governing body UCI as an annual event in its official cycling calendar.

Pic by Shanuka Aravinda

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