Arnaz M. Khairul
Coaches of junior teams in the country and a number of cycling officials have raised the alarm over the state of the timber track at Velodrom Rakyat in Ipoh, the ill-fated 25-year-old facility that seems hit with never-ending woes despite numerous attempts to restore the track.
Question marks were raised when the academy, based at Velodrom Rakyat, was left in a limbo two months ago when coach Mahazir Hamad left the programme to take charge of the development squad in his home state Selangor.
It was by all means a demotion for Mahazir, a celebrated former national cyclists, but despite reserving his comments, hinted that all was not right at Velodrom Rakyat.
The Malaysian National Cycling Federation (MNCF) has once before, in 2005, suspended the use of Velodrom Rakyat after serious crashes suffered by cyclists in the ACC Track Asia Cup round as it hosted as its first event after supposed repairs were completed.
The velodrome had been left in a dilapidated state between 2000 and 2004, when a Timesport expose saw to it that the track would be repaired. At a cost of RM1.7 million from the Ipoh City Hall's (DBI) coffers, a return to action was promised, but Hafiz Sufian's unwanted souvenirs from the ACC Track Asia Cup showed repairs too weren't enough.
National cyclist Hafiz had crashed and had wood splinters stuck into his thigh, arms and back, some of which had to be surgically removed. That was in 2005.
Azizul's former coach Rozimi Omar, in charge of junior cyclists under the Dungun District Cycling Association (DDCA) has voiced his concern over the matter.
"When we have races at Velodrom Rakyat, I'm always worried, as we have junior cyclists under our care. Azizul's incident in Manchester was a freak accident, which was not expected to happen," said Rozimi.
"But at Velodrom Rakyat, a crash will almost certainly leave some wood splinters stuck into the bodies of cyclists. And with junior cyclists, we coaches will have to be responsible and often answerable to parents.
"I hope this matter will be viewed seriously."
MNCF technical and competitions committee chairman Maniam Manikkam said the federation was aware of the state of Velodrom Rakyat, but admitted there were still junior competitions planned at the facility for this year.
"We have included some rounds of the junior circuit to be held at Velodrom Rakyat, but before they are run this year I will be going to have a look at the track," said Maniam when contacted.
"We have received a number of verbal complaints, mostly from those worrying about the safety of riders. Should we find the track unsafe, we will not hesitate to suspend it from use again."
Maniam said there had also been recommendation for the track, which has often been criticised for being unsuitable as an outdoor facility with a timber track, to be converted into a cement track which could be the right solution to the problem.
"The MNCF track committee has suggested this to the owner, DBI, before. Maybe it is time to really push for this. There has been talk about building new velodromes, but we must first prove that we can take care of the existing ones," said Maniam
Read more: Cycling: Woes of Velodrom Rakyat http://www.nst.com.my/nst/articles/osohuiozsv/Article#ixzz1EeZA8Odx