PETALING JAYA: Mohd Azizul Hasni Awang added another feather to his cap when he was crowned the UCI Track World Cup overall champion in the keirin event.
Azizul was confirmed as the overall winner for the 2008-2009 season after the end of the final round in Copenhagen, Denmark, on Sunday.
The Malaysian team skipped the final round in Copenhagen but none of the top riders managed to beat Azizul’s tally of 24 points.
Ukrainian Andriy Vynokurov’s third place in the keirin final saw him earning eight points to finish second overall with 21 points.
France’s Kevin Sireau won the keirin final in Copenhagen as triple Olympic champion Chris Hoy of Britain, returning to the track for the first time since his triumph at the Beijing Olympics last August, crashed out.
Azizul’s tally of 24 points came from his fantastic efforts in winning two rounds in the second leg in Melbourne last November and the fourth leg in Beijing last month.
The Malaysian track cyclists only took part in two out of the five legs of the World Cup track circuit.
Besides Copenhagen, the Malaysian team did not go for the first and third rounds in Manchester and Cali, Colombia, respectively.
The Terengganu-born Azizul is the second Malaysian after Josiah to win the World Cup keirin overall title. The latter achieved the feat twice in the 2002-2003 and 2005-2006 seasons.
Winning the World Cup overall title will see Azizul wearing the white jersey (indication of him being seeded top) for the World Track Championships in Poland in March.
Azizul, who is already ranked world number one in keirin, said he was relieved he managed to maintain his place at the top despite only competing in Melbourne and Beijing.
“I was looking forward to winning it after bagging my second gold in Beijing but the coach (John Beasley) said it was better for us to stay at home to train for the World Championships.
“I thought I would not have a chance of keeping the top spot. The ranking is a recognition for Malaysian and Asian cycling as well.
“Before no one cared where we came from but now they recognise us after what we’ve achieved.
“The other riders are now aware of our reputation and greet us when they see us,” said Melbourne-based Azizul, who is also the Asian champion in keirin and 200m sprint.
Azizul, who shot to prominence with a three- gold performance in the junior ranks of the Asian Championships in Kuala Lumpur when he was just 18, added that wearing the leader’s white jersey would boost his confidence in Poland.
And it is at the world meet that he hopes to make up for a tactical error which cost him a place in the keirin final at the Beijing Olympics last year.
Azizul also plans to chase down another milestone — to be the first Malaysian track cyclist to win a medal at the World Championships.
“This is my main target for this year and I hope to be well prepared to do it,” he added.