FAUZAN Ahmad Lutfi gets back to duties on his road bike, but not after achieving another milestone in his career in mountain biking.
Still the only Malaysian to have won a road race in Europe when he won the GP Soultz-sous-Forets in France in 2007, the 27-year-old policeman is now the first Malaysian to have competed in the UCI Marathon Series.
But it was a painful, if not educational, experience for the Penang-born cyclist after his debut in the final round of the series, the Val di Fassa Bike in Moena, Italy a week ago.
Fauzan finished 154th out of 528 riders over the gruelling 65km course in four hours 27:35.30s, a result that was light years away from winner Jaime Yesid Chia of Colombia who finished in 3:08:57.20s.
"It was an eye-opening experience. Firstly, the course was a supremely tough one.
"It was climbing Genting Highlands three times on gravel roads," said Fauzan.
"There were over 600 entries and I got to see the reality of how far ahead the top marathon riders in the world are compared to us.
"There were even many veterans above 40 years who easily finished well ahead of me.
"Overall, from the entries and the level of racing, I must say that marathon racing is quite a big thing in other parts of the world.
"We have not yet reached that level, as we're even struggling to achieve good results in cross country racing."
Fauzan said his sponsor, Due Roda Extreme, is considering giving him more exposure in the UCI Marathon Series in a programme which could next year include some rounds of the UCI Cross Country World Cup.
"The marathon series is a 15-round championship, while the cross country World Cup is a six-round affair.
"It's not confirmed yet, but there are talks of a plan for that," said Fauzan, who headed straight to Malacca and has linked up with national road squad teammates, who will depart for Kuching for the Sarawak leg of the National GP Circuit this weekend.
After that Fauzan, the 2008 national road champion, heads for the Tour of Brunei, the final race on this year's UCI Asia Tour calendar. By Arnaz M. Khairul