In a welcome first for Malaysian cycling, 19 year-old rider Ng Yong Li has been offered a position on the under 23 development team at Liberty Seguros-Würth, according to a report published in Malaysia's New Straits Times, fulfilling his dream to compete at the epicentre of cycling in Europe.
"Well, this is what I've always wanted to do. I always believed that to achieve anything in cycling, I will have to go to Europe. And to do it with one of the greatest teams, is a dream come true," said Yong Li. "I am going there to learn as much as I can and try to make the grade as a pro in Europe. It will be hard, but I have to try this."
The Batu Pahat-born youngster won gold in the individual time trial at last year's Malaysia Games and also is considered a good climber. He is set to leave for Spain by the middle of this month, but will depart with his current team today to compete in the Heritage Tour of Thailand, which he hopes will provide solid preparation for his time in Europe.
A spokesperson for Liberty Seguros confirmed Yong Li will receive a bike, other equipment and technical assistance to enable him to compete with the team in a hectic race program that goes right until October, and will race roughly one to two times each week. However, the Putrajaya Cycling Association (PjCA) will have to raise initial funding for his initial expenses in Spain; PjCA secretary Sakeri Abdullah said Yong Li's family have agreed to partially support him, while efforts are underway to raise further funding, including living expenses and his airline ticket.
"Now, I have to keep my head down, because I will be riding for the under-23 squad, not the ProTour team, which includes greats like Joseba Beloki and Roberto Heras," he said.
Yong Li's performance will be evaluated at the end of the season with a view to a longer term contract in 2006.