KUALA LUMPUR: Azizulhasni Awang, who is on the comeback trail after more than a year away from racing, admitted he felt rusty at the second round of the Track Champions League (TCL) in Berlin last Saturday.
The Pocket Rocketman, who had undergone open heart surgery to correct a coronary artery anomaly in April, did not make it past the first round in both the individual sprint and keirin at the Berlin Velodrome.
The Olympic silver medallist said he was nevertheless pleased to see incremental improvements in his riding.
The opening round of TCL in Mallorca earlier this month was his first competitive appearance since the Tokyo Olympics.
"For the sprint in Berlin, I felt a bit rusty in terms of tactics and decision making, I was better in this regard in Mallorca," said Azizulhasni on social media.
"My reactions were a bit delayed, I had a chance to block the Israeli rider (Mikhail Yakovlev) when he made a move but I played it too nice and stayed at the back.
"This can happen when you are not quite fit enough, the decision would have come naturally — through muscle memory and experience — if I was 100 per cent fit."
Excelling in the sprint event depends heavily on how well a rider can produce his own power unlike the keirin in which drafting plays a bigger role.
"The keirin in Berlin was actually better for me, I got a good draw and was in second position behind (eventual winner) Harrie Lavreysen (behind derny)," added Azizulhasni.
"I was feeling good going into the last 200 metres and felt I had a genuine chance of making the final.
"Unfortunately, two riders made contact with each other and looked like they were going to crash just when I was about to launch my sprint.
"My reaction was to stay safe so I went towards the outside and went very close to the fence. I tried to chase but it was already too late by then.
"But that is the beauty of the keirin, anything can happen. I am just grateful that I did not crash as I have only just recovered (from surgery).
"At the end of the day, I am here (TCL) as part of my training and to collect points. I can feel my performance slowly getting sharper and I believe my results in Paris will be better than this."
The third round of the TCL will be held at the St Quentin En Yvelines Velodrome in France on Saturday.
Azizulhasni is currently 10th among 18 riders in the overall men's sprint category standings with 20 points after two rounds.