Cambodian Cyclists Ride High in Asian MTB
Cambodian cyclists performed well and held their own against tough competition from many countries during the recently-held Asian Mountain Bike Championship 2020.
Held in Chiang Rai, Thailand, the cycling event attracted more than a hundred cyclists from all over Asia. Participating countries include host nation Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, China, Kazakhstan, Philippines, Japan, Malaysia, Indonesia and Iran.
The Cambodian Cycling Federation (CCF) registered seven riders for the XCO events (Cross-Country Olympic Format). They were Lim Viwath in the Men’s Junior; San Nama and Von Savin in U23 Men’s; Sang Seyha, Huot Loy Raksmey and Hong Chanmakara in the Elite Men; and Pierre Yves Catry in E-Bike Racing.
Catry, a veteran rider who is also the deputy secretary-general of the CCF, was the best-performing cyclist from Cambodia.
Despite a poor start, Catry placed second overall in the E-Bike Race, just a short distance behind Thai rider Pariwat Tanlek. Speaking about the battle for first place, Catry said, “I even passed him [Tanlek] in the first climb and was hoping to build a gap before reaching the highest point of the course. But he was right on my back wheel, closely followed by Spanish rider Jorge Garcia.
“On the steepest part of the climb, Tanlek moved back to the lead and started to open a 30-second gap by the end of the first lap. Garcia was quite comfortable in the technical descents and passed me. I followed him for a few minutes until he made a mistake and I was able to regain the second spot. I reduced the gap with the leader [Tanlek] during the following lap, but he reacted and was able to control the race until the end,” Catry added.
Lim, who was joining an international race for the first time, held his own against much more experienced riders to place 15th overall in the Men’s Junior.
“He was in 15th position at the end of the second lap, only a few seconds behind riders from Kazakhstan and Malaysia. Once again, the 80 percent rule affected our rider as he was over 12 minutes behind the leader at the end of the second lap,” Catry noted.
“Nevertheless, he was ranked 15th overall, which is still commendable,” he added.
Huot and Seyha also did well in their categories.
“Huot and Seyha were respectively 12th and 16th at the end of the opening lap. Our main objective was to complete the race, so we instructed our riders to ride within their limits to avoid cramps,” Catry revealed.
Huot was on good form and gained a position in the second lap. He struggled a bit on the remaining laps but was still able to complete the six laps in 13th place. “We were indeed very pleased with this result,” Catry remarked after the race.
“As for Seyha, he moved up to 15th but was only able to complete five laps (the 80 percent rule). Not exactly the result he was expecting, but after the first-day crash, his confidence in the technical descents was affected and it certainly cost him valuable time every lap,” the CCF deputy sec-gen explained.
Catry said their participation was very constructive for the team.
“The six days we spent in Chiang Rai were very constructive for the whole team. We discovered a new type of course with many manmade obstacles. After several laps of practice, we made big improvements and felt much more confident going into the race,” he noted.
Catry said that from the races, they could observe the skills of the other riders and measure the gap that separates Cambodians from the top Asian riders.
“It will require a good amount of training to reach top-five positions in the future. Racing is as important as training as it provides motivation and it enables us to evaluate the progress made. Without racing, training has no meaning. So our goal is to race against stronger riders as often as possible,” he stressed.
According to Catry, Cambodian riders are making big strides.
“If we look at the last SEA Games which took place two months ago in the Philippines, our elite athletes have undoubtedly improved since then. They were able to beat SEA Games silver medallist Niño Surban from the Philippines, and Indonesian rider Zaenal Fanani, who finished 6th in the last SEA Games and won the XCE final in Chiang Rai,” he pointed out.
Catry said their next international race will be the King Cup Thailand Championship in Chanthaburi on March 1. “Our objective is to get a top-five position in the Elite Class,” he ended.