With an increased budget and overhaul of their rider and staff roster, Malaysian Continental team Terengganu are aiming big in 2017. The Continental team have recorded several top 10 results at the Tour de Langkawi this week despite losing their sprinter, Mohd Hariff Saleh, due to a stage 1 crash.
Pulling the strings for the team is former professional Jeremy Hunt, who joined the team late last year and had his riders prepare for the race with a training camp in his adopted hometown of Melbourne.
"They contacted me and asked me to coach the team. Personally, I know all the guys because I raced a lot in Asia with the Baku cycling project and I know Danny [Feng] well. I have known him for a few years. I said I would give it a try and see if you like the way I coach and they do, so I am lucky," Hunt told Cyclingnews of the team.
"When I retired I wanted to live in Australia. I have two young kids so I wanted to stay in Australia and not be travelling around the world. It works well and I do a similar thing to what John Beasley does with the track racing but for the road."
Having seen his riders now race for a week, Hunt explained that he has been impressed by their progress but stressed the need for his riders to maintain their focus.
"They are getting top 10s and always attacking and trying to get the points and KOM. It is a positive start because like I said, I have only been working with them for two months, so it's not long. The way they are going, it shows me that they can win races in Asia and can win a lot of races in Asia. If they can go home and be professional and train right, I am sure that they can win races in Asia."
One of Hunt's challenges to improve the team is to get his rider backing up day after day, race after race, a feat that he believes the squad is capable of but one which will take time and dedicated work on both parties' behalf. With former Tour de Langkawi stage winner Anuar Manan and recent stage winner at Le Tour de Filipinas Daniel Whitehouse, Hunt has winners on his books.
"I've done a few races in Asia in the past and they were really, really good, but I am not sure what happened. What I have seen is that they have gotten a lot better and when I look at the power profiles and training peaks I know that they can get a lot better. With a year's work, I am pretty sure that they can get to the finish with most of the hilly days here. I know it is not the highest level in the world but it is still a high level for them," he said.
As for what the future holds for Hunt and his role with the team, the former national British champion is only thinking short term for now as he works towards August's Southeast Asian Games in Kuala Lumpur.
"They have four DSs, three if you don't include me, and there aren't many races, so it's more about coaching for me. I am sure I will do Korea or Japan and Southeast Asian Games," he said of the races he'll do in the car. "Let's see how the next few months go until the Southeast Asian Games and how they all go."
First, though, Hunt has one final stage of the Tour de Langkawi to come with the team set to seal the Malaysian rider classification via Mohd Shahrul Mat Amin.