PETALING JAYA: The exploits of Malaysia’s Azizul Hasni Awang on the international track cycling scene have not gone unnoticed.
Having climbed to the top spot of the keirin world rankings last month, Azizul has been offered to ride for a professional trade team in the third-leg of the UCI Track World Cup in Beijing next week.
Azizul will make his racing debut with the Australian-based BT (Bike Technologies) outfit and he is looking forward to charting yet another breakthrough in his brief but phenomenal career.
It was in 2006 that Azizul first showed promise of becoming a top sprint rider when he bagged three gold medals in the junior ranks of the Asian Championships.
He was roped into the senior squad and duly delivered the keirin gold in the Asian meet the following year.
Azizul not only defended the title for Malaysia but added another in the 200m sprints by beating the Japanese in their own backyard in Nara last year.
The 21-year-old from Terengganu also went on to earn his first Olympic appearance in Beijing last year, where he was the best Asian finisher.
The invitation to ride for a pro trade team comes hot on the heels of a stunning victory at the previous leg of the World Cup in Melbourne early last month.
Azizul stayed undefeated in the keirin to become the first-ever Malaysian to take gold at the World Cup meet.
The World Cup regulations have been amended from last year to allow the pro trade team to enter riders.
“It’s an honour to ride for a trade team. They are also represented in the endurance events and the 1km time trial.
“No Malaysian has ridden for a trade team and I am game for it,” said Azizul from Melbourne yesterday.
By riding in the trade team, it will also enable 2004 Athens Olympic finalist Josiah Ng to compete as the Malaysian entry for the keirin. Only one rider is allowed to represent his country in keirin at the World Cup level.
Azizul is also hoping to maintain his status as the world No. 1 in keirin.
His biggest challenge is expected to come when triple Olympic champion Chris Hoy returns to competition soon to get ready for the World Championships in Poland in March.
Azizul, however, is not afraid of the competition.
“We have just completed nine days of racing in Tasmania and we will return to training tomorrow, so our work is cut out for us to brush up on our weak points before heading for the World Cup,” said Azizul.