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Cambodian cyclist wins bike race at Angkor Wat

121203_24b
Meas Samnang holds up his men’s 100km winners prize of a Giant Mini city bike after the Angkor Wat Bike Race & Ride on Saturday. Photograph: Chris Derbuc/Phnom Penh Post

The Angkor World Heritage Site became the hotspot for bike enthusiasts on Saturday, with the 7th Angkor Wat Bike Race & Ride being hailed as a great success by participants, dignitaries and organisers.

Meas Samnang, a prolific Cambodian cyclist whose name literally translates as Gold Lucky, carved out his own good fortunes for a first place finish in the 100km men’s race with a time of 2 hours 50 minutes and 57 seconds.

The Phnom Penh-based former tuk-tuk driver, who turned to bike racing at a late age, came home ahead of compatriot Hong Chanmakara, while Michael Jan of Singapore clinched third.

The charity race, sponsored by Shimano, DKHS, Sokha Resort, Giant Bikes and Travelloops, was organised by local NGO Village Focus International, who were joined for the first time by international charity Terre des Hommes Netherlands.

Riders from Cambodia and abroad made up a field of 690, a 20 per cent increase compared with numbers from last year. Both genders competed in races over 30km and 100km routes.

The shorter distance race for men was totally dominated by locals with all top three places going to bike enthusiasts from the Kingdom. Yoeun Phiyuth won the event in a time of 51 minutes, just four seconds in front of Vong Pov, who crossed the finish line seven seconds faster than Raw Khemarak back in third.

In the women’s 30km competition, Britain’s Jenny Corser struck gold via a sprint finish against second-placed Hong Sivgech of Cambodia. Hong Sivlang, the younger sister of Sivgech, grabbed third.

The women’s 100km race saw no Cambodian make the podium, as Vietnamese cyclist Anes Kum triumphed ahead of Americans Robin Marsh and Robin Pork in second and third respectively.

As with each edition of the annual event, the main purpose is to raise money for a charitable cause. The official website of the main organisers states: “[It is] always in the sense of supporting highly vulnerable children struggling to grow up to be healthy, productive and happy people.”

Funds generated by the event have been earmarked for numerous charities including the Anti-Trafficking Safehouse, an NGO trying to end child exploitation; Il Nodo, an organisation helping imprisoned women, who are often pregnant or having their children live with them in jail, get access to nutrition and medicine; and the Cambodian Woman’s Crisis Centre.

The target for donations from this year’s race and ride was $60,000, although organisers could not confirm if it had been met or not. “Unlike the last year, there is a lot more cash donations from different sponsors, etc. So all the funds contain of online donations, online registration fee, cash registration and cash donations. It is not possible yet to get an overview of all the money that was raised,” VFI Director Rick Reece told the Post.

Individual amounts raised by participants, who encouraged their colleagues, friends and family to pitch in for a good cause, does not count towards the quoted target.

Shola Fawehinmi managed to raise $6,000 for riding the 100km men’s race.

“I just asked around and a lot of people seemed interested to contribute to charity and this is just a great way to do so,” said the Briton. Fawehinmi’s funds will go towards Sala Bai, a hotel school in Siem Reap which gives underprivileged youths training for a future in the hospitality trade.

Thong Khon, Minister of Tourism and President of the National Olympic Committee of Cambodia, opened the races on Saturday with a speech and showed his appreciation towards the organisers.

“This event is great as it is a charity event with a great cause. It also attracts a lot of tourists,” he said.

“People will learn about Cambodian culture and promoting cycling is a way to encourage people to use bicycles instead of cars, which helps with the reduction of carbon emission.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Chris Derbuc at christophderbuc@aol.com

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