National team rider Heng Sivlang will look for more glory this weekend in the Smart Cambodia MTB Series A2 Class
Cambodian women are being encouraged more than ever to venture into traditionally male sports, as the country continues to catch up with international sporting practice.
Stars of the 27th SEA Games Sorn Sivmey (taekwondo), Chov Sotheara (wrestling) and Ke Leng (petanque) helped shine a light on the Kingdom’s female athletes last December in Myanmar, but an emerging talent in the local mountain biking scene has more recently started to turn heads.
On June 8 at the Prek Leap track, Heng Sivlang stunned a majority-male field of riders to capture victory in the A2 Expert Class of the 2014 Smart Cambodia MTB Series.
With the win, the 31-year-old mother of four from Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district stormed to the top of the A2 table on 47 points ahead of tomorrow’s third stage in Kampong Speu. She holds an eight-point lead over Flying Bikes teammate Srey Ya, who won round one at Silk Island, and is 11 points up on third-placed Arnaud Demarti.
The need for speed of the two-wheeled variety clearly runs in Sivlang’s family.
Her husband and Flying Bikes 2 shop co-owner Vong Khan Pove is currently seventh in the A2 Class, her older sister Heng Sivgech is one below in eighth, her 15-year-old daughter Vong Soukheng is competing in the Women’s class and her 11-year-old son Vong Choung Heng races in the Kids class.
Sivlang credits her husband for introducing her to pedal-powered pursuits.
“It was in 2010 when I first joined mountain biking with my husband and his group,” she told the Post.
“It was only fun rides and not really for competition. I joined them together with my daughter and my sister Heng Sivgech, riding the trails and sometimes travelling to Kirirom for some more challenging rides.
“After a while, my sister and I thought that it would be good if we can also start training to compete since we can always catch up with the group whenever we ride.
“I think I’m competitive by nature, and I always want to challenge and push myself to be good in what I do and took my training seriously to compete. Mounting biking obviously is good for health and, most of all, enjoyable.”
Sivlang says that her training regime, which includes three early morning rides and regular gym sessions every week, doesn’t prevent her from performing her duties as a wife and mother.
“My whole family is very supportive of me in this sport and most of them are also competing,” she added.
When asked about the reasons for her success in the previous race, Sivlang said: “Well, maybe because of my training. Maybe I train harder than [my rivals] and I just enjoy riding fast and leaving them behind. I enjoy it a lot.”
Expert riders demand high-quality equipment, with Sivlang boasting a Cannondale F29 Carbon mountain bike and Cannondale Evo road bike as well as top of the range helmets, cycling shoes and compression clothing sourced from Flying Bikes 2 shop.
She is no stranger to Cambodia’s national sports set up, having played for the table tennis squad from 1997 to 1998, but now finds herself firmly in the saddle for the national cycling team, having represented the Kingdom along with her sister Sivgech at the 2013 SEA Games.
“I was a bit nervous when I saw the other competitors and the track, but I kept in mind that I went there to prove to myself that I am also capable of competing at the international level,” said Sivlang.
“It was my first international competition and I was able to finish 12th, beating other [riders from] countries like Myanmar, Indonesia and East Timor.”
Following this weekend’s action in Kampong Speu, the Cambodian sisters will travel across the border to participate in the Thailand Mountain Bike Open on August 9.
In tomorrow’s blue-ribband event, the A1 Elite Class race, EYC team member Yoeun Phyuth will be looking to complete a hat-trick of wins to cement his tag as this year’s favourite to clinch the five-stage series title.
The 18-year-old student will have the comforts of his home province to help him in his quest for a third straight victory, which would push him further ahead of second-placed Khmer Cycling Team’s Hong Chanmakara and Flying Bikes’ Nhonh Lenh in third.
The A1 Class flags off at 8am tomorrow and will see cyclists race over three laps of a rugged seven-kilometre course. A2 riders then hit the trails to also do three laps, while the B1 Intermediate Class, presently led by 19-year-old Sang Seyha of Flying Bikes, will be pedaling across two laps.
A 6.3km-route will be covered twice by the racers of the B2 Intermediate (30 and over), C1 Novice (14-18), C2 Novice (19-35), C3 Novice (36 and over) and Women’s classes.
Youngsters of the Kids class will do four laps of a shortened course. Lunch and a prize ceremony will be held from 12:30pm at the race track, at Wat Phnom Cheal on Road No 125, about 9km from Kampong Speu town along National Highway 4.