Azizul regains No. 1 spot in keirin

Azizulhasni Awang (pic) received a timely boost to his preparation for the World Track Cycling Championships in Berlin, Germany from Feb 26-March 1 when he regained the top spot in the world keirin rankings.

The 2017 world champion Azizul is ranked No. 1 with 2,560 points.

Yudai Nitta of Japan, who claimed silver at the world meet in Poland last year, dropped to second spot with 2,551 points.

Frenchman Sebastien Vigier is ranked third with 2,347.5 points ahead of another top Japanese rider Yuta Wakimoto (2,333.5).

Another Malaysian cyclist Mohd Shah Firdaus Sahrom is ranked 32nd with 1,237 points.

It is the third time the 32-year-old reached the zenith of cycling in the world rankings after 2010 and 2016.

“It’s a big honour for myself and country to be ranked world No. 1 in an Olympic year, ” said the Terengganu-born cyclist, who is set to make his fourth Olympic appearance in Tokyo in July.

“I’m proud to get the recognition for the hard work I put in training and competitions.

“I’m not sure how long it will last but hopefully, I have the results to keep the status.”

It may not last long, however, as Azizul and company will skip this weekend’s UCI Track World Cup leg in Milton, Canada to focus on preparation for the world meet.

Track cycling coach John Beasley said the travelling journey from Melbourne to Canada would take its toll on the cyclists.

“It’s going to take up 10 days to travel and compete and then to recover from the journey before we can go through the normal training schedule, ” said Beasley.

“It’s better for us to stay put in Melbourne and I can put them through a training block.

“The world championships is not far away and Azizul lost some momentum after what happened recently, so he needs to make up for what he missed.

Azizul was involved in a nasty collision in the keirin final at the fourth leg of the Track World Cup in Brisbane, Australia last month and had to take 10 days off training before he was able to ride again.

Until the mishap, Azizul was riding high as he had won the keirin gold medal in the third round of the Track World Cup in Cambridge, New Zealand earlier last month.

Azizul suffered a shoulder injury during the fall but Beasley is optimistic he can recover fully by the time they leave for the world meet next month.

Points earned from the five Track World Cup meets will determine the field for the world championships.

For the sprint, reigning Asian champion Azizul is ranked 13th in the world rankings with 1,816 points while Shah Firdaus is 19th with 1,536 points.

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