KUALA TERENGGANU: “My pedalling power starts with my mom’s bicycle.”
Those are the words of Terengganu Inc TSG Cycling Team (TSG) rider Mohd Harrif Saleh, 30, when he recalled the moment that triggered his passion and determination to venture into cycling.
He said despite having made new memories with every victory he achieved, the one in which he pedalled his mother’s Raleigh bicycle to every corner of his village during his childhood years would always remain in his mind.
“When I was a kid, the only bicycle available was my mom’s, which had a basket in front of it. I rode it everywhere, to every corner of Kampung Ladang without fear. This memory makes me proud…from my mom’s old bicycle, now I’m able to pedal and race using a bicycle worth RM40,000,” he told Bernama during a recent interview at his mother’s house here.
Mohd Harrif began contesting in cycling competition at the district level since he was nine before his talent was spotted by various quarters.
During his early years of representing Terengganu, Mohd Harrif said his family hardship became the biggest motivation for him and the cash prize he received in every win would be shared with his family and his mother, Esah Abdullah, 63, who is a single mother.
He said his father Saleh Yusuf died when he was five, and the family’s uncertain financial situation made him more self-reliant to explore his potential in cycling.
“My mom used to cook early in the morning and pack the food for me to bring to the competition venue just to save cost. She’s always in high spirit…sometimes she would hitchhike or take a bus just to watch me race.
“My brother, Zamri Saleh, is also involved in this sport, and now the captain of the TSG team. He is among the people responsible for bringing me into this sport. In fact, my first mountain bike was a gift from him. Alhamdulillah…now I own more than five bikes for racing purposes,” said the cyclist who is now training for the PRURide PH cycling festival in the Philippine scheduled for the end of this month.
Not many were aware that Mohd Harrif had won the junior category at the Tour of Korea in 2005, while Azizul Hasni Awang finished third. Mohd Harrif is also the only Malaysian rider who had bagged the title so far.
At the Le Tour de Langkawi (LTdL) 2019 last April, Mohd Harrif conquered the Stage Two from Senawang to Melaka and became the second Malaysian rider to record a stage win after Anuar Manan in 2010.
He also finished third behind Matteo Pelucchi from Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec team and his teammate Youcef Reguigui in Stage Six from Bagan to Alor Setar.
Sharing his secret of getting maximum level of fitness, Mohd Harrif said not only he had to undergo five-hour training daily, but also to watch his diet and avoid getting injured.
He said the spinal fracture he suffered due to an accident during a race in South Korea in 2017 was something that had almost made him give up his cycling career.
“At first, I struggled to get back on my feet, but my strong passion for cycling cured me like magic and I managed to win the gold medal at the Kuala Lumpur SEA Games 2017 in the men’s criterium event in Putrajaya,” said the cyclist who rides with TSG since 2011.
Even when he can be proud of being at par with the world’s best cyclists, Mohd Harrif remains humble when asked what made him great.
“I just give my all, do my best,” he said. – Bernama