While there are numerous differences between jungle trails and tarmac roads, some of the best mountain bikers have made the switch and benefited from doing so. Cycling Malaysia spoke to the captain of Terengganu Cycling Team (TSG), Mohd Zamri Saleh, who is a Malaysian professional racing cyclist, also the elder brother of eminent Mohd Harrif Saleh on what he has been up to on the road. With almost 20 years of cycling, including participating in various international races, how does it feel to have such accomplishment under his belt?
The 34-year-old Zamri may be one of the well-known mountain bikers who’s switched to a road cyclist. He started cycling as a mountain biker at the age of 16 years old, a few years later he joined a cycling club in Singapore back in 2002.
How does Zamri find the differences switching from mountain biking to road cycling? “Compared to other riders who first started as a road cyclist, I find myself physically stronger. Just like Peter Sagan, a Slovak professional road bicycle racer for UCI WorldTeam Bora-Hansgrohe. He had a successful junior cyclo-cross and mountain bike racing career, winning the Junior Mountain Bike World Championship in 2008 before moving to road cycling.” The avid cyclist expounded.
According to Zamri, one of the great things about using mountain biking to build fitness for road cycling is that you can pack a lot of physical work into a comparatively short space of time. Mountain biking is a full body experience. Arms, shoulders, back, sides and core are all keys leading to more powerful muscles.
“The foundation I have built is already more stable than other people. Besides that, mountain biking helps enrich my mentality because it is a lot tougher and more challenging to ride a mountain bike.” Zamri enlightened us about how mountain biking profited him as he used to be a XC cyclist before hopping on a road bike.
How did Zamri start cycling? “My elder brother was a cyclist, so as my younger brother, I followed in my elder brother’s footsteps. Likewise, Harrif then followed in my footsteps, and he has become more skilled now.” Zamri was proud to reminisce how he and his family were involved with the sport, and the great impact they have brought to the cycling sphere.
ON TRACK TO SUCCESS
Since then, Zamri has been drawn plenty of attention on the road. Back in 2006, Malaysian National Cycling Federation (MNCF) Cycling team called him to have a hand in Le Tour de Langkawi. Afterwards, Zamri was in the team from 2008 until 2010, while he represented the country for LTdL until 2012.
A year after quitting MNCF Cycling Team, this young guy who is also an army at Royal Malaysian Navy chanced upon Terengganu Cycling Team in 2011. At the same time, Zamri trained with a cycling club in his military camp.
Having competed in Malaysian National Championships, Asian Cycling Championships, Tour of Singkarak, Butra Heidelberg Cement Tour de Brunei, Tour of China, Tour of East Java, Tour de Jakarta, Tour de Bintan, Tour de Korea, Tour de Tochigi, Le Tour de Filipinas, Le Tour de Langkawi, King’s Cup 2, Southeast Asian Games and the list goes on, but Zamri has never thought of holding back. Aside from partaking in all sorts of big races, he also races in the homegrown competitions.
Other than his hard-hitting trainings, he occasionally goes to the gym. Being a professional rider, however, Zamri does suffer his breakdown. “Training is the most struggling part to me as I have to complete any task given by my coach, regardless of its difficulty.” Though, what does Zamri enjoy the most in cycling? “The fellowship.” This devoted cyclist replied without a hesitation.
How does Zamri optimize his diet, then? “I am not a fussy eater, so I do not have a specific diet plan. Most athletes would suggest to take pasta for its rich carbohydrate, however for me, I will just devour the Malaysian food.” Zamri said laughingly. Although diet is not the most vital element to him, he takes supplements to strengthen his body.
If you haven’t already known, this national rider also owns The Samseng Brothers (TSB) Café in Terengganu. More than just a bike café, it is embellished with his bicycles, trophies, medals, cycling jerseys of him and his younger brother, Harrif Saleh. The cycling gears used by the brothers will be nicely exhibited. If you happen to see Zamri in the shop, he must be making some aromatic coffee at the bar, while his wife prepares local and western cuisines. “I also provide bicycle stands for my customers.” To his surprise, some of the frequent visitors travel all the way from KL.
PAIN IS TEMPORARY. PRIDE IS FOREVER.
Two weeks before the 29thSEA Games 2017, Zamri and his teammates returned to Malaysia after a 45-day camp training in Melbourne. It was part of the preparation and progress for SEA Games 2017. In Melbourne, the team did not only train hard for the long awaited and anticipating road race, they also went to races alongside other professional teams from other countries. During the 45 days, the team obtained several excellent results as they got onto the podium earning themselves the awards for champion as well as second place.
On the road to taking the medals, what was Zamri’s challenge for SEA Games 2017? “I cannot determine what my challenge was, because everyone was well prepared, and the nation has spent a lot on us.” said Zamri. TSG’s performance has been resilient and consistent so far. What did Zamri do to prepare for the Games? Speaking of preparation, Zamri expressed that Vietnam’s sprinter was very strong. He again further explained, “I have observed all teams from different countries, we just need to fight for our team.”
On the 21st August, the ambitious rider made headlines when he triumphed in Men’s Criterium earning himself the Bronze medal. Upon securing the medal, Zamri did not hide his ambition to deliver an additionally stronger contentment. After placing 3rd in the race, we were instantly reminded of what Zamri once told us, “I am confident that my team and I will absolutely take the medals in SEA Games. I am very optimistic about our chances this time around. We are here without any pressure, but with a huge support from our country.”
After the SEA Games, Zamri and his team will be going to The Tour of China. Other than that, he has more than five races to play a part in within this year. You must be having a question in mind. Having been in the cycling community for so many years, what does Zamri look forward to the most about every races? “I look forward to the victory. When I attain outstanding results, I will have the contract for my future.”
In all the prestigious races, where victory is akin to pride. Zamri’s biggest achievement was LDTL in January 2017 where he got the third place. Road cycling is very competitive, and the peloton is massive, therefore getting into top three is definitely thought-provoking.
Nowadays, Zamri’s junior riders look up to him as the captain of TSG. Unlike his generation, there’re a lot of opportunities for the young riders because of the generous sponsors. However during Zamri’s old times, sponsorship was limited hence he had to be self-sustaining to get things he wanted. “I would like to share to the young riders; seize the opportunity, keep training, lastly, do not give up!”
Zamri has a big goal which is to succeed at The Tour de France in the future. With each pedal he turns, he is well on his way getting closer to his target. But when does this aspiring rider plan to retire? “I am not certain because I look up to my cycling coach who’s older than me but capable of cycling faster than me. He was a member from Team Sky – Jeremy Hunt.” Indeed, there are legends in road cycling and then, there is Mohd Zamri Saleh.