Participants in the annual mountain bike challenge at Kirirom say the event raises awareness of the need for environmental protection in the Kingdom.
AS the fast-paced music blared out into the otherwise quiet forests in the mountains of Kirirom National Park, bicycles raced out of their starting places like stallions at the Kentucky Derby.
About an hour later, the winners cheered loudly as their bikes crossed the finish line.Seventy-two Cambodians rode among of the 118 total contestants in the fifth Mountain Bike Challenge, held on December 20 in Kirirom National Park, organised by engineering company Comin Khmere.
Event organiser Pierre Yves Catry said their aim was to improve biking challenges in Cambodia while promoting environmental stewardship.
“Cambodian Cycling Federation has organised cycling on the streets, but not in the mountains,” Catry said.
“Because Kirirom is not too far from Phnom Penh, it is a good place to send people to see and protect the environment in Cambodia.”
Besides bicycle racing, Comin Khmere also organises motorbike races and football competitions.
Iv Leng, the only Cambodian in the top five, took out first place in the 31-years-and-older expert level – and pocketed US$300 for his efforts.
“I was excited with my success, because I’ve taken part in the competition for three years, and last year, I got only fourth place,” Iv Leng said.
Iv Leng, who has biked for eight years, said he spent two weeks prior to the competition gearing up for the challenge.
Second-time competitor Michael Kiess, who took the fifth-place prize, said he was happy to see so many strong Cambodian bikers compete.
“When I started biking in Cambodia, it was mostly with foreigners, but more and more, I have the chance to ride with Khmer people,”Kiess said.
“I got a medal and a $40 prize, but I use this money with student leaders from Aziza School, Lakeside, and other schools to organise eco-tourism projects to Chambok and Kirirom.”
Kiess believes that bike racing can be used to promote environmental awareness.
“It is the first time for the students to ride the bicycles in the forest. They are happy to know about eco-tourism projects and appreciate nature, so it acts as encouragement for people to preserve the forest.”