Local teenager Yoeun Phyuth stormed to victory in the A1 Experts class in the first round of the 2013 Smart Cambodia Mountain Bike Series held on Sunday at Silk Island, located in the Mekong river across from Phnom Penh city.
The EYCycling rider and first-year engineering student, who recently turned 18, finished over two minutes ahead of his nearest rival, Ngul Lech of Flying Bikes, and completed five laps of the seven-kilometre course in one hour 17 minutes and 23 seconds. Hong Chanmakara came in third, 45 seconds behind his team-mate.
“I am really happy to get first place and to know I have the ability to beat the others in the race,” Yoeun Phyuth told the Post yesterday.
“I did not expect to be the winner and I was nervous at the start point, but I ended up doing a good job.”
The Kampong Speu native has enjoyed a remarkable rise in the Cambodian biking scene, having taken up competitive riding just two years ago, and clinching the Intermediate category title of the 2012 Cambodia MTB Series.
His team is an offshoot of local grassroots organisation Empowering Youth in Cambodia, and Phyuth has also joined the national cycling team, with which he receives subsidies via the Cambodian Cycling Federation, including a $60 monthly salary and free food at a restaurant near Olympic Stadium.
Phyuth’s win earned him a $50 winner’s cheque as well as 25 points towards the overall championship standings, which carries a grand prize of $150.
The series now heads to the hills of Kep for the next race on May 19. Rounds in Prek Leap, Phnom Penh on June 9 and Kampong Speu on August 4 will follow, before a final event at Phnom Baset on November 3 draws the 2013 calendar to a close.
Phyuth says he will continue competing in domestic mountain bike and road races, and plans to travel to Vietnam next month with the national team for competition. His main goal, however, is to fly the flag for Cambodian at the SEA Games in Myanmar this December.
“I need to train a lot with my coach and team members, and I hope to be ready for December,” he said.
A total of 180 riders signed up for races on Sunday, up 30 from the average turnout in last season’s stages, according to organisers. Pierre-Yves Catry, event manager at Flying Bikes Racing, explained the set-up of the routes through the countryside.
“Racing events are held on a mix of rough forest paths and single tracks, and smooth fireroads [trails], mostly off-road,” he said.
“This is the most popular type of cycling race in Cambodia, as it is both fun and safe [with] no traffic. For our events in Cambodia, we design tracks and define racing
categories in order to satisfy the largest number of participants and encourage beginners by making easy tracks for them.”
Other results from the Silk Island leg included victory in the A2 Over-30 Expert class for road specialist Kloth Karoney, who led from the start to beat Srey Ya from Flying Bikes Team into second, with Arnaud Demarti in third.
The day’s most competitive division, the B Intermediate class, saw EYCycling’s Hun Ponlok triumph over a field of 36 with some outstanding lap times.
Jolanda Swetsloot took first place in the women’s race after battling hard with defending champion Heng Sivlang, who finished second.
The Mekong Cycling Team took all three places on the podium of the C1 Novice class for ages between 14 and 18, with Aem Pok, Dy Kakda and Trem Sopheak filling out the top three respectively.
MCT’s Sareth Phlong, meanwhile, won the C2 Novice class for 19- to 39-year-olds, as Pich Chetra from Comin Khmere and Sang Seyha came in second and third.
The inaugural C3 Novice class for the over-40s had Campinoy Team dominate proceedings, with team members Vince Vano, Jojo Pangilinan and Rene Cainlas completing a one-two-three in the race.
The event on Sunday was hosted by title sponsors Smart, in association with co-sponsors Top 1 Motor Oil, Flying Bikes 2, ATS, Comin Khmere, United Pharm, Alaxan, Medicom, URGO and Kampot Express.