Cycling ace Azizul rides to a double at China Track Cup

Azizulhasni Awang raced to a golden double at the China Track Cup I in Taiyuan to signal his return to form ahead of the Asian Games in Indonesia next month.

Azizul beat China’s Xu Chao in two heats (10.232, 9.948) in the men’s elite sprint final at the Taiyuan Velodrome on Wednesday.

He then beat Xu Chao and another Chinese sprinter Wang Yibo in the keirin final yesterday to complete his stunning double.

Training partner Muhd Shah Firdaus Sahrom also made the keirin final but settled for fifth.

Shah Firdaus took the bronze in the sprint earlier after coming from behind to beat Kazakhstan cyclist Pavel Vorzhev in three heats.

It is the first win on foreign soil for the 30-year-old Azizul since his historic ride to gold at the Track Cycling World Championships in Hong Kong last year.

Azizul showed he was up to speed by clocking the second fastest time of 9.895 seconds behind Xu Chao (9.677) in sprint qualifying.

Shah Firdaus was third fastest with 9.912 ahead of Chinas Bi Wenjun (9.942) and Vorzhev (9.995).

Mohd Fadhil Zonis was the third Malaysian to dip under 10 seconds in Taiyuan, placing sixth (9.997).

Fadhil finished ninth overall after he was eliminated in the second round of the knockout stages.

Azizul is pleased with his current form but will remain wary of a tougher challenge at the Asian Games where he will not just face the Chinese but the likes of Japan’s Kazunari Watanabe and Tomoyuki Kawabata.

Watanabe ended Azizul’s Asian title reign by beating the Malaysian in the sprint final at the Asian Cycling Championships in Nilai in February this year.

The Japanese sprinters did not compete in China and they will be a strong threat as they are very serious in doing well at the Asian Games.

“I am so glad that my performance is exactly where I want to be in less than one month before the Asian Games,” said Azizul.

“I am happy to clock 9.895 seconds in qualifying and beating Xu Chao in two hard races as we have a very high-quality field of competitors here in a UCI Class 1 event. I’m also proud of my teammates Shah Firdaus for winning bronze and Fadhil for making the elite Malaysian sub-10 seconds club (also his new PB),” said Azizul from Taiyuan.

Farina Shawati Mohd Adnan and Anis Amira Rosidi placed 13th and 14th respectively in the women’s elite sprint.

Olympic and world champion cyclist Zhong Tianshi claimed the gold for China after beating South Korean Cho Sun-yong in two heats in the final.

Azizul is gunning for his second career Asian Games gold medal next month. He had a perfect Asian Games debut in Guangzhou, China, in 2010, beating teammate Josiah Ng to the keirin gold medal.

In Incheon, South Korea, in 2014, Azizul was relegated to sixth for a technical infringement in the keirin final.