KUALA LUMPUR: It took three years of research and development, besides buying the equipment and it cost RM13mil. Now, the Malaysian track cycling team have a groundbreaking bike that they will use for the Tokyo Olympics.

The National Sports Institute (NSI) are hoping their venture into uncharted territory will pay off with the country’s first Olympic gold medal.

But there’s far more to the story of the bike that Azizulhasni Awang and Mohd Shah Firdaus Sahrom will ride at the Games.

NSI collaborated with TotalSim Ltd to produce the one-of-a-kind WXR-Vorteq bike, which they plan to market to the world later. The bike’s frame alone costs £25,000 (RM138,000) and cutting edge technology was used to produce the bike parts.

Two countries – Greece and Lithuania – have already signed up to buy the bike from NSI. In fact, anyone can buy it, if they have a spare RM300,000 lying around. The sale to public is a requirement by UCI, the governing body for cycling, before a bike can get approval for use in international tournaments like the world championships and Olympics.

NSI chief executive officer Ahmad Faedzal Ramli said this was the first time they have produced their own equipment in high-performance sports, working together with the UK company that has expertise in sports aerodynamics and counts Formula One teams among its clients.

“We worked on this project after Azizul became the world keirin champion in 2017 and we realised he was going to be one of the strong prospects for gold at the next Olympics.

“It is a groundbreaking project for us because we had so little experience in sports aerodynamics and we sent two of our sports scientists to work alongside the company in UK.

“It is our hope that this will benefit not just our cyclists but also in transfer of technology as we can use the know-how to benefit athletes in sports like swimming, athletics and sailing in the future.

“We commissioned the company to work with us to roll out the best Olympic package for our cycling sports equipment. It’s not just the bike but also the helmet and skinsuit our track cyclists will use.

“This whole project is about finding reductions in drag and using marginal gains to our advantage in a competition.

“Other nations have long since started to employ cutting edge technology to get ahead in sports. We have to start thinking out of the box to support our athletes,” he said.

For the Olympics, the bikes are custom-made for our two cyclists.

Azizul, who bagged two bronze medals in keirin and sprint at the Track Cycling World Championships in Berlin recently, said the bike was tailored to his height and body.

“As you know, I am one of the shortest and smallest cyclists in professional track cycling.

“My bike and the one used by Shah Firdaus are not the same. The seating clearance is different and handlebar height are not the same.

“I am very detailed when it comes to my bike settings. It’s not the same if I was using my teammate’s bike.

“We have used the bike in training for two months and during the world championships.

“And it’s still not the finished product yet.

“We will only roll out the final bike at the Olympics but I think we are on the right track as all of us managed to do personal bests in our events,” said the Rio Olympics bronze medallist.

Track coach John Beasley said the goal of the project was basically to produce the lightest and stiffest track bike as possible.

“You need a track bike strong enough to stand the pressure in sprint event in the first place. Now, I believe we have the lightest bike for the Olympics.

“Greece and Lithuania are buying the bike from us but for their cyclists in endurance track events. They will not use it to compete against us,” he said.

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