By Priscilla Chua
Changi Coast Road, August 24–25, 2013 – Low Ji Wen, 24, won the Men’s Elite Road Race and Men’s Team Time Trial at the recent 2013 Singapore National Road Cycling Championships.
Ji Wen was riding as part of the OCBC Singapore Pro Cycling Team which won four national titles at the Championships – Men’s Elite Individual Time Trial, Men’s Elite Road Race, Men’s Team Time Trial and Men’s U-23 Road Race. Ji Wen joined the fully professional team in 2012.
The team, which was founded as an amateur club in 2009, aims to develop and promote Singapore cycling and is the Republic’s first and only professional team.
“We want to inspire people to be able to pursue their dreams,” said team manager Justin Cheong. “Cycling is something that doesn’t earn much money. You do it a lot for the passion; you do it because you really want to. It’s an industry that we are developing as we go along because we’re the first to be seriously pursuing this in Singapore. One of the things we try to do with any success we get is to tell people by showing them that it’s possible to decide on something else apart from a common career path in Singapore.”
Red Sports caught up with Ji Wen after he recaptured the road race title, which he last won in 2010.
Priscilla Chua: How long have you been cycling for?
Ji Wen: I have been cycling for 10 years – seriously for 10 years. I am doing this full time, so on paper yes, I am a professional and I’m paid to do this.
What got you interested in cycling?
Ji Wen: I was actually out on a school trip, and we were walking down just near Fort Canning. I saw a group of cyclists go by and I was like “Wow, that’s quite cool!” I sort of persisted and my parents budged and said: “Yes okay we’ll get you a bicycle.” And so we went out to all the shops and I was too small to fit any of the bicycles.
So I sort of shoved aside the idea for a few years and then I think in secondary two when I was 15, the idea suddenly just popped back to my head at random. So I got a bike and one thing led to another, and here we are.
Cycling in Singapore seemed to have gained momentum only in recent years, especially since the first OCBC Cycle Singapore in 2009?
Ji Wen: Yes it did. Actually strangely enough the racing scene pre-OCBC Cycle Singapore was quite healthy. We had regular races every month or so, but for whatever reason, it sort of died out. The Cycle Singapore event sort of raised the profile of cycling in Singapore and more and more people started participating just for leisure. It is good for the competitive side of things as well.
What are your goals in the coming year?
Ji Wen: In the short term within this one year period I would like to win a professional race. In cycling, the international governing body is called the UCI (Union Cycliste international). To win a UCI race is the number one priority right now.
Next to that would be the SEA Games coming up. Having been nominated [to represent Singapore at the SEA Games in Myanmar in December], I would want to get a medal. We’ll see how that pans out, but the number one priority is to get a UCI win.
What kind of a rider do you see yourself as?
Ji Wen: Sort of an all rounder. Our team, the way we race is very aggressive. Even if it’s a big giant mountain and we know we can’t keep up with the best of the best, we still give it a shot anyway. Of late I’ve been trying to improve my sprinting, to improve my chances of getting more top 10s. So yeah, I’d say all rounder, really!
Is there any rider whom you look up to in the peloton? (Peloton is a French term that refers to the main pack of riders in a road race)
Ji Wen: Not really. Maybe initially, at the very beginning when I started cycling, I think Lance Armstrong was a big influence. Regardless of what happened in that era – we put that aside – we get to a certain point in your career and you realise if you put people up on a pedestal, you will never achieve as much as they have achieved. You’ll always be stuck at a certain level because you always think they’re better than you, the moment you step on the start line. So you’ve already lost the battle even before it’s begun. So to sum it up really, no particular idol.
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