By Steve Thomas/Champion System
The man widely considered to be the fastest road sprinter in all of Asia, Anuar Manan of Malaysia, has signed up to ride with the new Chinese based Champion System Professional Continental Team for 2012.
The all-new multi-national roster team will officially set their wheels rolling just a few weeks time, when they will ride out as the first ever Pro Continental level team to race out of China, and with the addition of Anuar Manan to the Anglo-Chinese team roster will be a great boost both to Anuar’s own career ambitions and to the team’s long term mission – to lead Chinese and Asian riders to the forefront of the international pro peloton.
For some time now the Malaysian sprinter has been blazing a trail few can follow in Asian races, and has mopped up a long chain of successes in most of the major UCI Asia Tour stage races, as well as scoring an outstanding stage victory and overall points title in the 2010 Tour de Langkawi, his home race, and an event renown as a hunting ground for the best aspiring sprinters in the world.
Hailing from the cycling crazy east coast Malaysian state to Terengganu, Anaur’s first ventures into bike racing were on a borrowed mountain bike, and he rapidly earned a reputation in the mud. But it wasn’t long before he hit the hard ground and found his niche as a road sprinter.
It was back on 2007 when Anuar first made his first major mark on the Asian scene, by scoring a stash of stage victories in major Asian tours under the colours of the Malaysian Le Tua team. From there he went from strength to strength, and following his Tour de Langkawi stage win in 2010 (The first ever by a Malaysian cyclist) he was elevated to the status of “national hero”, and is now a household name in Malaysia.
His long list of successes, combined with those of fellow Terengganu track sprinter Azizul Hasni Awang, have lead to a huge boom in cycling in the country, and almost every young racer wants to be like Anuar Manan.
The “Anuar” effect has made its biggest ripples in his own home state, which has a major cycling development system in place, and this year sponsored its own team – Terengganu Pro Asia, which was inspired by and lead by Anuar, and both he and the team are happy he now has the opportunity to go further, as he explains; “I really want break my level and go further. I’ve been in the same place for long enough now. I think that Champion System have a very strong team, which will help a lot. I’d like to get the chance to make it to the World Tour.”
In joining the new Champion System team Anuar will finally get the opportunities he’s be searching for – those being a chance to pitch his skills against the best riders in the world, and on their home turf.
With a mixed trans-continental program of racing ahead in 2012 he’ll get the chance to show off his fast finish in the USA and in Europe, as well as on familiar Asian ground; “I’m really excited, and look forward to getting him to the USand seeing how he performs in the NCC criteriums, they should really suit his style. But of course it’s Europe that will be the real test, it will be interesting to see how he adapts.” Enthused team manager Ed Beamon, who has witnessed first-hand the firepower of the Malaysian’s sprint as an opposing team manager.
There’s no doubt that the 25-year old rider has come a long way in a short period of time, but he’s always lacked the experienced resources back up to take his show to a bigger stage; but given the support and guidance he will now have at his disposal from the likes of Jaan Kirsipuu he could well cause a few surprises in the big leagues of bike racing, as he explains; “I’ve raced a lot with Jaan, he has a very strong will and mind. I think together we will have no problem winning races, and I think I can learn a lot from his experience.”
Having recently taken a stage victory in the Tour of Hainan Anuar’s season currently is winding down some, and he’s already setting his early season sights on the next Tour de Langkawi, which for the first time ever will finish outside of Kuala Lumpur – in his home state of Terengganu, adding a little extra fire to his cause; “I’ve just finished the Jelajah Terengganu, my last race with my current team. Next year LTdL will be a big target. I want to win the stage into my home state, and also take the points jersey (which he did in 2010).”
Another huge target for Anuar in 2012 will be to lay claim to one of the two Malaysian starting slots for the London Olympic Games Road Race, an honour the country has not earned since 1992. As things stand he is an odds-on favourite to make it to London, although the road to get there is still a long and tough ride away; “I’m training very hard already, and hope that I can get the best results early in the year to qualify for selection. I’m quite confident I can do it.”
With a home-ground kick off to 2012 and a whole new team in support it looks set to be a great and victorious year ahead for Anuar Manan, who will start his new season as the first Malaysian rider ever to race on a Pro Continental team.