Salamat unleashes climbing prowess

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In Photo: Marella Salamat is neither a sprinter or a climber, but she performs well in the mountains of Thailand.

MARELLA SALAMAT is blossoming into a well-rounded cyclist.

A time-trial gold medalist at the Singapore 28th Southeast Asian Games in 2015, Salamat showed another facet of her fast-developing skills and wound up third in the King of the Mountain classification of the recent Tour of Thailand.

“I am neither a sprinter nor a climber. But I still made the KOM podium,” Salamat told the BusinessMirror Cycling. “This is the result of our rigorous training in the national team.”

The professional bowler-turned-cyclist surprised the field with her climbing ability, especially in the third and last stage of the International Cycling Union 2.1 race where she topped the KOM—the first in her young career as an Elite rider.

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“At the start, I never expected that I will land a spot [in the KOM]. There were so many climbs in the route. We knew that. And I know that I am not good with climbs,” Salamat said.

“But when we entered the climb, especially in the third stage, I felt that I could chase the leaders,” she added.

Salamat was sixth in the general classification, some three minutes behind champion Phetdarin Somrat, a rising star from Thailand. Vietnam national team mainstay Nguyen Thi That and Norwegian Miriam Bjørnsrud completed the podium.

She and national coach Cesar Lobramonte were surprised with the podium finish in the KOM that saw Bjørnsrud wearing the polka-dot jersey and Japanese Hiromi Kaneko finish second.

“The results gave me confidence that I could match the speed and power of my rivals in Southeast Asia,” Salamat said.

Salamat, Somrat and Thi That were also named the Best Asean Riders.

Salamat was 11th in the 102.8-km Stage One from Chiang Mai-ChomThong. She improved to sixth place in the 66-km Stage Two from Chiangmai to Doi Sakat in northern Thailand. In the last stage, Salamat found an opportunity and wound up sixth place.

The Pangasinense and the other national team members started the season with a heavy schedule. They saw action in the Asian Championships in February in Bahrain and the Biwase Cup in Vietnam last month.

But Salamat cracked in Bahrain and finished 25th out of 33 starters. She fought back in Vietnam and was eighth overall in the nine-stage, 828-km race.

The 23-year-old Salamat and her teammates will see action in a test event for the Kuala Lumpur 29h Southeast Asian Games in Malaysia in May, an event that will provide the athletes a glimpse of their opponents in August.

“For now, I will focus on my sprinting. I know I must improve on my sprints if I want to excel against” she said.