The national squad that competed at the Asian Championships in Putrajaya last week.
The national squad that competed at the Asian Championships in Putrajaya last week.

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian National Cycling Federation's (MNCF) mountain biking committee claims that the riders selection process for the recently concluded Asian Championships led to a delay in requesting a budget for the tournament.

Mountain biking (MTB) committee chairman Saiful Abdul Jalil said the committee wanted to wait for the conclusion of the XCO Helaz Mountain Bike Series One in Dungun last month before deciding on the team for the Asian meet.

The Asian Championships was held in Putrajaya last week. The national squad, comprised of 29 riders, was able to a historic two gold and three bronzes despite limited resources as no budget had been approved by the National Sports Council (NSC) at the time.

State coaches Nor Alfizar Othman (Kedah) and Arif Syukri Ahmad Sabti (Terengganu) had been appointed to lead the national team.

"If the committee selected the athletes for the squad based on last year's ranking points, it would be unfair to those who had competed in the Helaz XCO series in Dungun," said Saiful when contacted yesterday.

"So after discussing with Alfizar and Arif, the committee and MNCF agreed to select the riders based on their performances at the Helaz XCO series.

"When requesting for a competition (participation) budget from NSC there is a certain level of bureaucracy that must be adhered to.

"We cannot simply put down some riders names and end up sending other riders. We could be accused of simply using the riders names to secure an allocation if we did that.

"We had no funds to send the riders so we asked if state sports councils and state associations could help fund their own riders for the competition.

"Only today (yesterday) did we receive an approval for the budget from NSC, however, it is not for the full amount requested."

The national squad survived on donations of rice, sardines, eggs, biscuits and instant coffee contributed by the cycling community during the week-long tournament.

Melaka-based Helaz Cycling Team forked out the funds for the squad's accommodation and various other necessities. It is believed that Helaz spent roughly RM50,000 for the national team during the competition.

Saiful said MNCF will try their best to reimburse Helaz with funds from the budget approved by NSC.

"Insha-Allah we will (reimburse Helaz), we have already submitted the estimated costs to NSC, according to NSC's allowed rates," he added.

"We, however, do not know how much of it (claims) will be approved. We don't dare to promise the amount, but we will try."

MTB was included under NSC's full-time programme after the national team won gold in the cross country relay (XCR) event at the Hanoi Sea Games in 2022.

The discipline was, however, dropped from the programme after last year's Phnom Penh Sea Games as the squad failed to win a medal.

Saiful is looking to push for its reinclusion ahead of next year's Thailand Sea Games.

"As the chairman, I personally hope that NSC will restart the programme. We will request for it at the next working committee meeting with NSC," said Saiful.

"We can definitely see the potential our riders have. It has been tough for us, one minute we are in the programme then one minute we are out. The states don't have the resources to help out.

"We understand that NSC have many other sports looking for support but we really hope that we will be considered."

Saiful is hoping that more riders will be supported if MTB is reincluded in the NSC programme as MNCF have identified a number of events Malaysia has the potential to excel in at the Thailand Sea Games.

Previously, only four XCR riders were allowed in the NSC programme after the Hanoi Sea Games.