Ever since the headline report in The Sunday Times (7 December 2014 issue) about the eight edition of HolyCrit was published, there has been a sudden outburst of 'interest' in it with the 2 organizers being arrested by the police and the possibility of participants being arrested.
Now, I am not saying here that the police should close both eyes about this and let this whole matter rest. Instead, I want to bring out the bigger picture about why are such 'allegedly illegal' races organized.
A brief introduction on the concept of HolyCrit. HolyCrit is a monthly street criterium for the fixed-gear bicycle community. Starting at night, organizers releases the location only a day or 2 before the race. Participants pay $10 to join the race and the winner takes it all. HolyCrit is a unsanctioned race and organizers direct the traffic away from the riders without official permits/approvals. It bears much similarity to the famous Red Hook Criterium in Brooklyn, USA. Red Hook Crit started out as an illegal street race but is now one of the biggest fixed-gear criteriums in the world.
Singapore's Racing Scene
As most Singaporeans know, Singapore's sporting scene is quite limited despite the Government's push to promote sports locally. Specifically, cycling has faced many challenges here in Singapore. Road racing requires many roads to be closed and with Singapore's limited land space, the 2 most common location for races are East Coast Park and Changi Coastal Road. These locations, however, presents its own problems (eg. narrow roads, humps and sharp turns).
These challenges became apparent when the 2014 National Road Cycling Championships was postponed from mid-2014 to December 2014 but was subsequently cancelled because the Singapore Cycling Federation (SCF) was unable to find a suitable race route and "have not been able to pool together the required minimum resources".
Most cyclist in Singapore looking to be competitive often have to head to our neighboring countries to participate in races organized by professional events management companies, like Cycosports and Metasports. Popular races include Tour de Bintan (Bintan, Indonesia), Pasir Gudang Circuit Race (Johor Bahru, Malaysia), Desaru Cup (Desaru, Malaysia) and Batam 6 Bridges (Batam, Indonesia).
Ever since the news article was published on Sunday, I've seen many comments that "the organizers should just apply for a permit". My question is: If an organization that is recognized by the Singapore Sports Council is unable to obtain an approval for such a high-profile event at least for local riders), how will 2 independent guys get one?
They did something that even SCF was unable to do effectively: bringing the community together and providing a platform for local riders to shine. And to add to the point, it was not even profit-driven. Every dime paid by the participants would go the winner and prizes were sponsored by companies.
What's happening now is that 2 guys, whose intention was to give locals a chance to have a taste of the competitive side of cycling, will now have to face the music after giving so much to the society. Some guys will be raising funds for the organizers at Tanglin Halt Road this Sunday (14 December 2014). This isn't to start another HolyCrit, but instead, it is to share the 'punishment' with someone who has given us so much.
My hope is that this debacle would encourage better management of the sport in Singapore and, if possible, bring more races into Singapore.
Note: I know many people will disagree with what I have to say and I'm open to other opinions.