ONE of Singapore's premier road-cycling events returns in a hybrid format this May with new categories, more than a year after it cleared the roads and became a fully virtual event last year.
OCBC Cycle 2021 will split its traditional two-day event into two segments, with teams physically competing in championship events on closed roads, and the masses hopping on their bikes from anywhere in the country - from park connectors to their own living rooms - to take on the challenge virtually.
Corporates can take a break from their (home) offices and club cyclists can get to really stretch their legs again this year, as their teams return to the roads in the OCBC Cycle Speedway Championships.
The events will be back on May 29 in three categories: OCBC Cycle Speedway Club Championship, OCBC Cycle Speedway Women Championship and OCBC Cycle Speedway Corporate Championship.
At S$300 a team, teams of four can put their athleticism to the test, splitting into pairs, with each pair taking turns to cover five laps on a flat 1 km stretch along Stadium drive in a relay format. All in, 28 teams are expected to compete in these categories, with the all-female category debuting after the Covid-19 outbreak forced its cancellation in 2020.
The top three winners of each OCBC Cycle Speedway Championship category will receive cash prizes of up to S$800.
Triathlon coach Charlene Tang is excited to take part in her first OCBC Cycle Speedway Championships event, after years of going on all-girl rides with her teammates. "To us, racing is a bit like the reward after all the hard work that we put in," she said.
Mass events Mighty Savers Kids Virtual Ride (5km), The Straits Times Virtual Ride (23km) and The Sportive Virtual Ride (43km) will go back online from May 15 to June 13, replicating the format pioneered last year.
At no cost, cyclists will need to register, then submit their ride details, including the distance and duration covered (as tracked by a fitness tracker or workout app) across a maximum of four rides; they also need to submit a picture of themselves with their bikes taken at any point of the virtual rides.
For those seeking to test their limits, OCBC Cycle has organised 100 km and 200 km Virtual rides at S$22 and S$25 respectively, on the back of participants in past years' races saying that they would welcome the challenge.
At the OCBC Cycle 2021 launch, chief executive of Sport Singapore Lim Teck Yin said virtual races are a very important component of mass participation events today, and also down the road.
"They offer you opportunities to really extend participation beyond what our physical events used to be able to do. It allows you to even consider how you would attract an overseas market to be part of that event as well," he said.
Dr Hing Siong Chen, president of Singapore Cycling Federation, noted that Covid-19 has made cycling more popular.
Last year's virtual event was fully subscribed a month before registration closed, with first-time participants making up almost 70 per cent of sign-ups; in previous editions, they typically comprised about 40 per cent of participants, said OCBC Bank, the title sponsor of OCBC Cycle.
Koh Ching Ching, head of Group Brand and Communications at the bank, noted that some participants enjoy the flexibility of virtual rides, but still want to feel a sense of purpose that such an event provides, but there is also an energy and excitement at on-site races that should not be taken away.
With the Ministry of Health's announcement on Wednesday that it may allow up to 750 people to attend sporting events, OCBC Cycle hopes to look into bringing spectators to OCBC Cycle 2021, but in a restricted manner, to cheer on participants, she added.
Registration is open for all event categories, and closes on May 14.