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Bikers to carve it up in Kep

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Bikers speed along a Kep hillpath during a practice session before the Cambodia Mountain Bike Series race there last year. This year’s race in Kep is slated for next Sunday.

The beautiful seaside resort of Kep and its breathtaking mountain surrounds provide a perfect backdrop for the second event in the 2011 Cambodia Mountain Bike Series, taking this steadily growing adventure sport in the Kingdom to a whole new high.

The series got off to a rip-roaring start at Phnom Baset last month with a record field participating along with several new additions and modifications to the competiton.

According to event organiser Pierre-Yves Catry – himself a biker of reputed standing - the Kep leg on Sunday May 22 represents an exciting challenge for both man and machine.

The second leg of this five-event series involves six different categories, with the blue ribband event being the Expert Open class. The other categories are B1 for Juniors aged 20 years and below, B2 Intermediate Class, C1 for Novices below 35, C2 for novices over 35, and the women’s event – which proved quite popular in its inaugural run at Phnom Baset.

The entry fee for next weekend’s race has been pegged at US$15 for foreigners and $5 and $2 respectively for Cambodian adults and students. A provision for late registration has also been made at the venue before the start of the day’s schedules.

Sieng Makara heads pack
The Expert class saw a thrilling climax at Phnom Baset when Sieng Makara rode home a strong finish to nudge Pierre Catry into second, with Eng Chooy filing in third. On the tricky Kep mountain trails this three-way contest between Flying Bikes teammates is widely expected to produce an exciting fare.

In the B1 category, Siem Reap’s Pen Sovann turned up trumps. The B2 class was claimed by Flying Bikes’ Vong Chin Chove while Ngul Lench of Khmer Cycling topped the C1 category.  

Seasoned Cambodian Thong Sun of Comin Khmer proved too strong in the C2 division, while the first ever Women’s race was won in a telling manner by Heng Sivlang, ahead of her sister and Flying Bikes colleague Kong Meng, with Pat Srey Mom finishing third among 20 participants.

In an exclusive interview with The Post, Pierre-Yves Catry, a well known name in the Kingdom’s two-wheel enthusiast circles, characterised Mountain Biking as a rapidly growing sport despite it’s relatively new exposure in Cambodia.

“The first mountain bike race took place in 2005 at the Kirirom National Park,. At that time, there were less than 50 participants, but the number has grown steadily over the years. In 2010, there were more than 150 cyclists. Eighty percent of the racers are Cambodians,” said Catry.

“We organise two kinds of events. Leisure rides through our Sabay Cycling Club and the Mountain Bikes Series, which is a national championship with five rounds in various locations.”

The adventure sport fanatic that he has always been, Catry feels that cycling in Cambodia, especially the mountain biking type, has rapidly risen in popularity in the last two years. He noted that more and more Cambodian and foreigners getting into the spirit of it by practicing in groups regularly in the morning during week days.

“During weekends there are several groups like Early Risers, Phnom Penh Wheelers, Sabay Cycling, the United States Embassy group, the Kuang Heng group, and the Phnom Penh Bike Hash group out on their bikes. In Siem Reap also, cycling is getting popular, there are several shops selling and renting quality bicycles.”

Among the most popular bikes in Cambodia is the Cross Country type mountain bike, either hardtail models or full suspension for more comfort.

Racers normally prefer superlight hardtail models with carbon frames, low travel front suspension and light tubeless tyres with sealant that are puncture resistant.

The average weight of a cross country bike is around 12 kilograms, with the lightest models weighing as low as 9kg. Prices range from $400 up to $9,000.

“Although riding the top of the range bike gives a definite advantage, the stronger guy will still win, even with a $500 bike. Good quality branded bikes are now available in Cambodia, and prices are generally much cheaper than in other countries in the region,” added Catry.

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