For several years now Malaysia has been clearly intent on using cycling as a marketing and status-building tool, and with great success too.
The sport has gone from strength to strength over the past decade or so; not only in Malaysia, but also in the entire Southeast Asian region, largely thanks to the efforts of the Malaysian government in their continued support to the annual Tour de Langkawi.
The race has been instrumental in lifting cycling to a whole new level in the region, particularly where racing is concerned, as well as helping to raise the profile of Langkawi island, aiding in its quest to become a major player in the tourism market.
In recent years the government and its sub-divisions have also invested heavily in backing Malaysian cycling at grass roots level, and have achieved great success internationally on the track, and have a slowly but steadily evolving road racing scene, too. This investment has not only helped Malaysian athletes, it's also helped boost the credibility of the nation in sporting and organisational arenas.
On a worldwide scale the Tour de Langkawi may have lost a little of its lustre in recent years due to the emergence of other major "off season" events around the world; but in Malaysia it's easily as popular as ever, and ranks in popularity just behind events such as the Malaysian F1 GP and Moto GP, so still draws a strong field and pulls in an avid following.
One particular state of Malaysia, Terengganu, has gone cycling crazy over the past two to three years, and has also produced the lions share of the countries top cyclists, and has more recently backed the Terengganu Pro-Asia Continental team.
The Terengganu state government have become heavily involved with the development of cycling, and are already in the on the way to constructing a velodrome to help aspiring riders to follow in the footsteps of the state, and national hero, track sprinter Azizul Hasni Awang, and have also lured the Tour de Langkawi to finish in Terengganu in 2012, the first time the race has ever ended outside of the capital city of Kuala Lumpur.
An even more ambitious venture was announced (in principal) in the New Straits Times (a leading national daily newspaper) a few days ago. It would seem that Garmin-Cervélo DS Chan McRae's visit to KL for the recent launch of the Tour de Langkawi was about more than just committing his team to talk part in the race next year.
The NST report clearly details a proposal amounting to some RM2.7 million having been put to the TDL organisers by Slipstream Sports, and says that the tie in is being very seriously considered and negotiated. The link will likely also involve funding from the Malaysian Sports Ministry and the Terengganu state government.
The idea is to create a link between the state cycling infrastructure and the Chipotle Development Team. The proposed deal could see three Terengganu riders spend part of next season with the team, and also the addition of a logo/branding (exact details to be negotiated) appearing on next year's Garmin-Cervélo/Slipstream jerseys.
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