THE national cycling team are off to their first real test of the year.
The trio of Muhammad Raihaan Abd Aziz, Mohd Nurjamri Johari and Mohd Shahnizzam Hj Tamit are in Myanmar for today's pre-Southeast Asian (SEA) Games cycling competition.
The duo of Raihaan and Nurjamri will be competing in the cross country event while Mohd Shahnizzam will take part in the downhill category at the two-day tournament.
The national cyclists had a 10-day training stint in Kota Kinabalu last month as preparations for the March 8-19 Asian Cycling Championships (ACC) in New Delhi, India.
However, the team didn't travel to India as previously planned.
The team, together with national cycling coach Yafiz Jamaludin, left for Myanmar on Monday while Raihaan departed only yesterday after just returning from Beijing for a holiday.
Raihaan, who is arguably the best cyclist in the country, is not in 100 per cent condition despite putting in hard work but is still aiming to finish inside the top-10 for his race.
"I'm not very confident but I'm targeting to finish in the top-10. As usual I'll go out there with my best and finishing in the top-five would be a bonus for me," said Raihaan in an interview with The Brunei Times yesterday.
"I'm ready to race but it's just that the condition that I'm in... I feel that I'm not in the best shape, especially since it has only been a short time since I've returned from a long off season.
"I was hoping to ride up some mountains while in Beijing (last week) but the weather conditions were too cold for me," headded.
Raihaan also highlighted how important it is to get training outside of the country to be fully prepared.
"We have been training very hard and even underwent intensive training at Sabah. It is the best training route and is the closest place to us. We can't improve as much if we only train here," said the 24-year-old.
Raihaan is looking at the pre-SEA Games race as part of his training programme, and also as an opportunity to be selected for his main target which is the SEA Games in December which will also be held in Myanmar.
The national cyclist is also targeting a strong finish at the Tour de Borneo slated for May.
The last race for the national team was the Borneo Mountain Bike (MTB) Challenge 2012 in Bintulu, Sarawak in December.
The duo of Raihaan and Nurjamri finished on the podium of the 35-kilometre men's Open category the former claiming silver while the latter took bronze.
The Brunei Times