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Goat-roasting mountain bikers dominate downhill race at Myanmar National Cycling Championships

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After a four-year hiatus, Myanmar’s national cycling championships returned with a vengeance from December 2 to 6, with hard-fought medals awarded in the disciplines of road racing, BMX, mountain bike downhill and mountain bike cross-country.

The Myanmar Cycling Federation (MCF), which organized the event, underwent major restructuring in 2014 and last year set about reviving the sport in the country by holding more events and bringing in more sponsors, such as Myan Shwe Pyi Tractors, Myanmar CP Livestock, 100 Plus and AMI Insurance.

“This is the second year we started seriously organizing cycling races, and the first time in four years we have held the national cycling championships. I think overall it’s a great start,” said MCF president Khin Maung Win.

“There’s a lot of enthusiasm among the cyclists. This event has focused more on elite riders, so we don’t see heavy participation from all the cyclists out there who have emerged in the past two or three years. There are many cyclists out there, but this level of competition is something new in Myanmar.”


The championships kicked off with a three-day road stage race. Prizes were awarded to the top finishers on each day, but the national champion’s jersey was given to the cyclist who completed all three days with the fastest accumulated time.

The first race saw the field of 42 competitors ride 160 kilometers (100 miles) from Nyaung U to Meiktila. A crash on a sandy section of road about 30km into the race took down 10 riders, all of whom were able to remount and continue racing. The combination of hills and stiff headwind split the field into small groups, with SEA Games veteran Soe Thant from the National A Team taking the win in a time of 4 hours, 48 minutes, 18 seconds. His teammate Aung Phyo Min finished second at 3 seconds, while third-place Zin Lin Ko crossed the line 2m 16s behind the winner.


Day two from Meiktila to Pyinmana was similarly contested over 160km, but the course was flatter and swifter than day one. Another crash occurred about 20km into the race when an errant canine dashed through the middle of the group of fast-moving cyclists, causing Aung Ko Oo (Speed Team) to hit the deck. The unfortunate cyclist suffered a broken leg and was taken to hospital for surgery.


Meanwhile, Aung Phyo Paing (National A Team) and Sai Aung Kham (GTM A Team) escaped the field and finished first and second in 4h 4m. Zin Lin Ko led the main field across the line more than 10 minutes later.


The third and final road stage was a 30km time trial on wide roads around Wunna Theikdi Stadium in Nay Pyi Taw, with each rider starting individually at one-minute intervals. The day’s race was won by Kyaw Tun Oo (GTM A Team) in 39m 19s, but the overall national championship title went to Aung Phyo Min, whose accumulated time of 9h 38m 37s over three days of racing bested second-place Soe Thant by 42 seconds and Zin Lin Ko in third by 3 minutes.




On day four, the championships moved to Mount Pleasant in Nay Pyi Taw, the venue for the 2013 SEA Games BMX and mountain bike races. Zar Ni (GTM) out-pedaled 22 competitors to win the BMX championship, while Aung Naing Tun (Mandalay Free Riders) was fastest on the mountain bike downhill course, making it to the bottom in 2m 53s. His MFR teammates dominated the day, sweeping the top 10 spots.


Aung Win Tun – manager of the Mandalay Free Riders team, which prepared for the race by guzzling beer and roasting a goat on a flagpole the night before – noted that Aung Naing Tun’s time was on par with medalists at the 2013 SEA Games. “He rode an awesome speed. He’s racing at the elite professional level,” Aung Win Tun said.


Aung Naing Tun, who has been competing for eight years and who bested second-place Aung Paing Soe by 7 seconds, said he did not find the downhill course particularly difficult.

“The tracks we ride in Mandalay are more difficult than the course in Nay Pyi Taw. This track is better for riding at high speed, but it’s not technically difficult,” he said.

The national cycling championships closed on December 6 with the mountain bike cross-country race, consisting of five laps of a tough 4.4km course that included several technical sections and some very steep climbs and descents. Winner Ben Rowse (Bike World A Team) covered the course in 1h 17s, beating the previous day’s BMX champion Zar Ni by 1m 41s.


Although Rowse is Australian, he was named Myanmar national champion by virtue of an MCF rule stipulating that foreign residents are eligible to take the title.

“The mountain bike track was really good. A lot of the riders struggled, but it’s good that they can see what a challenging track is like and what they need to improve on,” Rowse said.

“There were some good riders out in the front. One guy [Zar Ni] was pushing me all the way to the finish. I think he crashed on the fourth lap and couldn’t catch back up, so I got a bit of a break and managed to win.”


Bike World team manager Jeff Parry said he was happy with how his riders performed, considering they were competing against the top national cyclists.

“In the mountain bike section, I think we excelled. We came in first and seventh places, and the winner comfortably came in first,” Parry said. “The course was certainly up to Asian international standards. It was fast in places, with a couple of steep climbs and sections that were technically challenging. I think it’s been a successful five days of cycling.”


MCF president Khin Maung Win said he hopes to build on the momentum of the national championships.

“One positive thing I see is that are a lot of new sponsors coming on board,” he said. “And of course the most exciting part for me is the young 18- or 19-year-old cyclists winning. They are showing great potential. That’s the future of cycling. Going forward, we want to go into the middle schools and high schools so the younger kids can enjoy competitive cycling.”


Myanmar Cycling Federation seeks to build on success of Asian BMX Championships

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The 10th Asian Continental BMX Championships, held in Nay Pyi Taw on October 31, not only provided a day of exciting international competition – it was also the first cycling event ever held in Myanmar with official endorsement from the sport’s governing body, the International Cycling Union (UCI).

The BMX race was attended by Boowong Choi, secretary general of the Asian Cycling Confederation under the UCI, who said he was dedicated to bringing championship-level events to as many Asian countries as possible.

“We have 11 Southeast Asian countries in the ACC but only a few have held championship events. Cambodia, Laos, Brunei and others have never organized events at the championship level. If we give them more chances to host races, cycling will grow in the region,” he said.

In that regard, Myanmar is now ahead of the game in Southeast Asia after having hosted last weekend’s competition. But there is still much room for improvement, he said.

“The level of organization in Myanmar is low compared with Europe, Korea, China – but with more experience I think they will improve,” Choi said.

Myanmar Cycling Federation president U Khin Maung Win agreed that local organizers still had much to learn, but added that for a first-time event in Myanmar, everything came together surprisingly well.

“There was fantastic participation from a lot of Asian countries. There was a lot of support from the UCI. So the future looks good,” he said. “This is another milestone in creating better awareness about cycling in Myanmar. We’re very, very excited.”

Thai-American racer Amanda Carr, who won gold in the Elite Women’s event and who also serves as a BMX track operator in Florida in the United States, said the championships in Nay Pyi Taw were a “really good start for the country”.

“It’s nice to see how much Myanmar is investing into BMX as a sport,” she said.

Among the shortcomings mentioned by participants was the design of the track, which was built for use in the 2013 SEA Games. But BMX racers are a hearty bunch, and they weren’t about to let poorly banked corners or rough surfaces get them down.

“The track here is unique,” elite-level Japanese rider Takamasa Sampei said diplomatically, “so we just have to adjust the way we ride.”

Such problems can potentially be addressed in the near future, as the MCF is currently considering whether to build a new BMX track on land allotted by the Ministry of Sports in North Dagon township.

A short cross-country mountain bike course is already under construction at the site, which will be inaugurated with races scheduled from December 11 to 13.

The federation has also been allotted a 9800-square-metre plot in Kyaikkasan sports ground, which is suitable for construction of a velodrome. However, no funding has been allocated, nor has a time-frame for construction been set.

As for future UCI-sanctioned events, Mr Choi has already opened discussions with the MCF about holding the Asian Continental Mountain Bike Championships in Myanmar in late 2016 or early 2017. Let the nationwide search for world-class cross-country and downhill courses begin.

Written by latefornowhere

November 6, 2015 at 11:53 am

Myanmar’s Khine Zin Moe races to bronze at Asian BMX championships

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Myanmar’s Zar Ni competes in the Elite Men moto round.

Surrounded by Asia’s best, including several with Olympic aspirations, Myanmar’s Khine Zin Moe forced herself into a medal finish at the Asian Continental BMX Championships, held in Nay Pyi Taw on October 31.

The event showcased the talents of 58 riders from 10 countries across Asia, including Japan, South Korea, China and Thailand.

The day started well for Myanmar when Khine Zin Moe posted the fastest effort in the qualifying time trial among the nine entrants in the Junior Women’s category.

Her blazing pace around the course earned her first choice of position at the starting gate in the moto round, where she finished second in her heat behind Sienna Fines from the Philippines, ranked 35th in the world.

Indonesia’s Tifiana Adine Almira Azaria, meanwhile, suffered a hard fall in the third moto that had race officials concerned she might have severed a finger, but she walked off with a deep cut and fracture instead.

In the finals no one was able to match Fines, who snatched gold just in front of world number 34 Chutikan Kitwanitsathian from Thailand. Khine Zin Moe crossed the line in the bronze position, to loud applause from the partisan home crowd.

“It was a very good experience racing against high-level international competitors,” Khine Zin Moe told The Myanmar Times after the awards ceremony. “I felt some pressure to perform, but for me it was home ground. This gave me courage to race against the others. I was not afraid at all.”

Despite her victory, Fines confessed to dealing with a fit of anxiety before the start.

“I was very nervous because it’s my first race back after a three-month injury, so I’m really happy to win,” she said.

Myanmar also made a valiant showing among the Elite Men, whose 19-deep field included 12 world-ranked cyclists. Nay Pyi Taw-based Zar Ni impressed with seventh place in the qualifying time trial, and then finished fourth in his heat in the moto round – just enough to squeak into the semi-finals.

Zar Ni (left) and the rest of the Myanmar team congregate before the start of the racing.

But it proved to be one round too far as Zar Ni was unable to find his rhythm on the track’s lumpy bits and finished outside the top four finals qualifiers in his heat.

Among the eight competitors in the finals, five were from Japan – and like the 2014 Asian Championships in Indonesia, they swept the podium: World number 39 Yoshitaku Nagasako repeated as champion, Jukia Yoshimura traded last year’s bronze for silver, and Tatsumi Matsushita crossed the line in third.

Four Myanmar cyclists line up in the Junior Men’s race. Khun Aung Thein and Kuang Htet Thar made to through the moto round and advanced to the semi-finals, where their quests for glory came to an end. Japanese riders Daichi Yamaguchi and Yuto Hasegawa took gold and silver respectively, while bronze went to Thailand’s Sitthichok Kaewsrikhao.

China’s Lan Yu (left), Amanda Carr (center) and Japan’s Haruka Seko pose with their medals.

There were no Myanmar entrants in the Elite Women’s category, which was dominated by Thai-American racer Amanda Carr, ranked 14th in the world. She crossed the line first each time she set rubber to the track, from the qualifying time trial, through the moto round and on to the finals. China’s Lan Yu had to content herself with silver, and Japan nabbed yet another medal with Haruka Seko’s bronze.

For Carr, earning International Cycling Union points in Nay Pyi Taw was another step toward her goal of representing Thailand in the 2016 Olympics.

“Olympic qualification is a two-year process, from May 31, 2014, to May 31, 2016, so I have to travel worldwide. Already this year I’ve competed over 24 times,” she said. Up next for Carr are races in Japan and Thailand, all with an eye toward Rio.

Thailand’s Amanda Carr takes out a strong lead over the remainder of the Elite Women’s field.

Written by latefornowhere

November 5, 2015 at 12:48 am