i was not alone in reacting with disbelief when i first read the news from Singapore that the organiser of the Holy Crit race, Eric Khoo, and volunteer Zul Awab were facing hefty fines and up to 6 months in prison after traffic police shut down their event due to a complaint from a local. Singapore is certainly an intriguing city but it is not one in which bike racing thrives, despite there being a substantial number of road, track, fixie and MTB riders.
each year the cycling federation struggles to put on a national road race and time trial championships, having to wrangle with the government to get a permit to close roads.
within this environment, the emergence of a crit series came as a ray of light in an otherwise dingy house. it injected a much required shot of adrenalin to the local scene and meant that people who wanted to race their fixies and single speeds finally had a place to do it.
until, that is, Zul Awab got a phone call from the local traffic police asking him and Khoo to go to the station to ‘help them with their inquiries’. that visit resulted in a criminal charge and a potential jail term. which is slightly ironic, as the Holy Crit was started in the hope of keeping young kids out of trouble.
“The idea behind this whole thing to keep these kids off the streets,” explains Awab. “In Singapore we have gangs, drugs, kids getting drunk at an early age, so we are trying to educate these kids about fixed gear and to get them into this sport. They don’t know about how to ride, about safety, helmets, all that. That was the aim.”
the ide behind the Holy Crit is to give something back to the cycling community and to help deepen the existing culture there. Khoo runs a bicycle store but was frustrated by the lack of spaces available for the people buying his bikes to test their machines.
“The first event was on September 1st last year. Nobody gains a single penny out of this, nothing. Some of the kids are at school. So there’s an entry for of $8US which goes to the winner, every penny.”
but was the event safe? or was it at a time or in a place where pedestrians and other road users were in danger in any way?
“No. It wasn’t at all. It was at 11:30 at night, there were no cars or mopeds. It was in a secluded area, the only cars there were parked.”
on the day when the got the call from the police, Khoo and Awab willfully presented themselves to the police, Awab says.
“Me and Eric went down there to help them and we were interrogated for about eight hours. I was handcuffed and my leg was cuffed too. My mobile phone was confiscated, they took my home computer, saying this was all standard operating procedure. My lap top was confiscated also. And we were just trying to serve our local cycling community.”
now he and Khoo are facing a 6 month sentence.
“We hope of course that won’t happen. The law they are trying to get us on only related to motorised vehicles. We hope, with the prayers and support of cyclists around the world, that it will just be a warning and a slap on the wrist. This whole thing wasn’t about trying to be glamorous or famous, it was just about giving something back.”
i asked him if he had any regrets, his answer was heartening.
“No, not at all. We want this to legalise this, keep it going and we want to keep the race the same.”
i wish them all the best for a suitable outcome to their predicament, and that this event reaches their ambition.
stay tuned here on crankpunk for updates.
if you’d like to leave messages of support for Eric and Zul, I suggest you do that here where they can see it, or alternatively seek them out on FB.