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King Of The Road - Mr. Kenneth Tan


SINGAPORE - He was - and still is - Singapore's most decorated professional cyclist.

With a string of wins including three silver medals (in 1989, 1991 and 1995) and a bronze at the SEA Games, as well as a silver at the Asian championships, former national rider Kenneth Tan is Singapore's most winning man on two wheels.

The 45-year-old has raced with the best and the strongest - including Lance Armstrong in 1989 and current Olympic Men's Road Race champion Alexander Vinokourov - during his professional career that spanned from 1987 to 1995.

So it might be surprising to learn that Mr Tan's cycling career began almost by accident.

During his time studying at Bartley Secondary School, Mr Tan was a rugby player. When he was 16, his coach advised him to start running as a form of aerobic exercise.

"But I hated running," says Mr Tan.

"I decided to pick up cycling instead."

Without a suitable bike, the young Kenneth borrowed money from his mother and washed cars to buy his first steel racer.

Back then, turning pro was just a pipe-dream - all Mr Tan wanted to do was ride.

He says: "I bit the bullet and trained almost every day. I was 16, I had nothing to lose."

When he enlisted in the army, he was placed in the Singapore Armed Forces Sports Association as the only cyclist on the roster.

He was an army driver, and even when he had army training that ended late at night or in the wee hours of the morning - he would still go out and train on his bike.

He recalls: "My friends in the army thought I was crazy."

The effort paid off.

When Mr Tan entered his first SEA Games - Jakarta in 1987 - he was 20-years-old and still green around the edges.

Yet he won his first medal - a bronze in the 4,000m individual pursuit.

When he returned, Mr Tan was offered a job with Japanese bicycle components manufacturer Shimano in the company's quality control department, which meant that he was testing new products.

The job provided Mr Tan with a bike, racing equipment as well as vitamins and other training supplements.

Crucially, it gave him the chance to train full-time.

Shimano even paid him to go abroad for six to seven months each year - training and racing in countries like Holland and Japan.

He returned each year to race in Asia - excelling at track events in the velodrome (a cycling track with sloped walls) and even ranking among the top 20 in the world at one point.

In 1995, he retired, nine years after his first medal in the 1987 SEA Games.

"I was doing the same thing for nine years, I was tired of it. I also had a daughter on the way."

Now, Mr Tan spends his time running Cycleworx, a bikeshop he started with two friends.

Still actively involved in supporting local pro-riders like the OCBC Singapore team, Mr Tan - who sponsors their bikes - believes that with time, the team might be able to equal the exploits of their predecessors.

"The guys must be serious and they must really want to do it. If you don't, no matter how much money people pay you, you will never (succeed)."

- The New Paper


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Posts: 159

Ya, there are others like Mong Chye, Bernard. Back in 1980, there were Jamil Mohammed and Julius Lim.

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