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Posts Tagged ‘Cycling Myanmar Burma

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.”


Hammer time at the Tour of Thailand

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Kyaw Tun Oo of the Myanmar National Team gets a water bottle hand-up during the Tour of Thailand.

In the sport of bicycle racing, the word “hammer” has several uses. It can be a verb indicating the act of riding very hard and very fast while feeling no pain: “He hammered up the hill, leaving everyone gasping in his wake.” To “put the hammer down” is to initiate the act the hammering.

In the noun form, a “hammer” is a cyclist renowned for his ability to hammer. And to “get hammered” is to be spat out the back of the race as the result of the efforts of hammers who are hammering away at the front. As the old saying goes, sometimes you’re the hammer, and sometimes you’re the anvil.

In this year’s Tour of Thailand bicycle stage race, held in the country’s northeast from April 1 to 6, the five-man Myanmar National Team were among those who got hammered.


The Myanmar team (left to right): Ben Rowse, Chit Ko Ko, Soe Thant, Kyaw Tun Oo and Mang Tin Kung.

Myanmar was one of seven national teams – along with Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Bahrain – invited to take part in this year’s race. The 13 other participants were sponsored trade teams from Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines, China, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Kazakhstan, Iran and the Netherlands. The races on each day ranged in length from 132 kilometers (82 miles) to 231km for a total distance of 1057km. Like the Tour de France, there was a stage winner each day, plus a “general classification” based on the riders’ accumulated overall times.

As a member of the Myanmar Cycling Federation’s executive committee in charge of road cycling development, I accompanied the team to Thailand in the capacity of manager, which, despite my three decades of involvement in the sport, was a role I had never before filled. I once read an interview with the manager of a professional cycling team who said the best days for any team’s support staff were those in which nothing dramatic happened in the race. It was only after surviving Stage 1 of the Tour of Thailand that I came to fully appreciate these words.

The first clue that things might go wrong occurred at the team meeting the night before the race started, when I drew number 13 in the lottery to determine the order of the 20 support vehicles that would follow the riders. Professional cyclists in Europe who are assigned 13 usually pin the numbers upside down onto their jerseys to undo any potential ill luck. But when it came time for me to affix those impious numerals to our pickup truck, I thought, “This is Asia. Thirteen isn’t considered unlucky here,” and stuck them on right-side up. The gremlins of misfortune must have chortled in glee at my dim-witted miscalculation, but I was deaf to their spiteful mirth.

Indeed, the first day of the Tour of Thailand was nothing short of a calamity for our team. Just 30km into the 187km race from Ubon Ratchathani to Mukdahan, the race radio crackled with the news that there had been a high-speed crash, and that one of Myanmar’s riders was involved.

As manager and driver of the support vehicle carrying our spare bikes and wheels, it was my job to put the pedal to the metal, drive like a bedlamite to the accident site and offer assistance to our stricken rider.

Urged on by the hysterical shrieks of Myanmar coaches U Naing Win and U Khin Myint, who were with me in the truck, I pulled up to the scene of carnage to find one of our cyclists, Mang Tin Kung, sitting in the middle of the road already getting his injured wrist bandaged by medical personnel. Meanwhile, the frantic coaches leapt from the pickup and performed some quick repairs on the damaged bicycle. Within seconds, Mang Tin Kung was back in the saddle and on his way.


Among the daily spectators were elderly cyclists inspired to take up the sport by recreational rides held in honour of the country’s king and queen.

Bicycle racers are generally a resilient lot – the polar opposite of football players, who can’t seem to stop themselves from flopping to the ground in feigned injury whenever another player passes within half a meter – and despite skidding across the scorching-hot pavement at 50kph, Mang Tin Kung was keen to continue racing. Unfortunately, circumstances conspired against him: Unable to grip the handlebars due to his fractured wrist, and stuck in a monstrously high gear compliments of a broken rear derailleur, he gamely struggled on in agony for more than 10km before realizing there was no way he could catch the main group of nearly 100 riders, who were racing at full tilt and weren’t about to slow down for anyone. Mang Tin Kung’s race was over before it had even begun.

From this bleak start, the day never really improved. Not long after Mang Tin Kung’s retirement, and before we had even reached the halfway point, another of our cyclists – Australian Ben Rowse, the sole non-Myanmar rider on the team – suffered a flat tire just as the race pace was increasing from torrid to downright infernal. Again I responded to the race officials’ radio instructions to speed forward like a lunatic to where Rowse was awaiting mechanical succor by the roadside. The coaches tossed him a spare wheel, and he was quickly back on the road chasing the relentlessly charging peloton.

Incredibly, after pedaling furiously for nearly 30 minutes – all the while, his bike computer unhelpfully informing him that his heart was thumping away in excess of 180 beats per minute – Rowse was able to catch back up to the main group. But he squandered all of his physical resources doing so and, a few kilometers later and sapped of all energy, he dropped off the back and was forced to abandon.


The teams begin to gather for the start of another day at the Tour of Thailand.

By the finish line, two more Myanmar National Team riders – Chit Ko Ko and Soe Thant – had also quit, victims of the first stage’s Tour-de-France-worthy average pace of 45kph over more than four hours of racing in 38 Celsius heat. They were simply undertrained and psychologically unprepared for the difficulties of the day. That left us with one finisher, 21-year-old Kyaw Tun Oo, who crossed the line tucked safely in the main field more than 10 minutes behind a couple of smaller, faster groups of riders who had taken off up the road.

While our riders were getting hammered out on the course, I was also facing personal challenges in my first experience as a support vehicle driver, which basically involves several hours of fighting for position on limited road space with 19 other team car drivers, all of whom are intent on handing up water bottles and food to their riders, changing wheels as quickly as possible when flat tires occur, and fixing bikes that have been broken by crashes. I was just happy to make it through the day without nose-diving into a roadside ditch or running anyone over.

The good news was that after Stage 1, the rest of the race was relatively incident-free as far as we were concerned. This was largely due to the fact that, according to the rules of stage racing, riders must finish each stage to continue the next day. Our team’s four abandons from Stage 1 were therefore out of the race for good, meaning that U Naing Win, U Khin Myint and I only had Kyaw Tun Oo to look after for the remaining five stages. Each day Kyaw Tun Oo finished strongly in the main group, avoiding crashes and suffering only one flat tire, on Stage 3, after which he was able to chase back to the main group without much trouble.

Kyaw Tun Oo’s riding was astute enough to catch the attention of the other teams, and managers from the Netherlands, Taiwan, Malaysia and other countries approached to tell me how impressed they were with his performance, despite the obvious shortcomings of Myanmar’s national team program.


Sweat-drenched Kyaw Tun Oo survives Stage 2. Only four more days to go.

Like most institutions under this country’s odious military government of decades past, for years the Myanmar Cycling Federation was largely dysfunctional, contributing little to the advancement of the sport and, at times, actively suppressing its development – this latter point was aptly illustrated by a bewildering incident in 2005 when MCF officials actually called in the police to prevent a well-organized and well-sponsored mountain bike race from taking place north of Yangon.

But in the past couple of years the federation has turned a page under a new president who is passionate about, and understands, the sport of cycling. More races are taking place each year, and more riders are participating in these competitions. Most important, more locals are simply getting out on their bikes for recreation under the auspices of vital, independent organizations like Bicycle Network Myanmar.

For now, Myanmar’s top riders are struggling just to finish big international races like the Tour of Thailand, but the pool of potential champions is set to grow, and it won’t be long before a hammer from Myanmar is hammering at the front of the pack, putting the hurt on the cyclists getting hammered at the rear of the peloton.


This article was originally published in the July 22-28 edition of The Myanmar Times Weekend magazine.



Commuting by bicycle in Yangon

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May 20 was Bike to Work Day in the United States, where, according to the League of American Bicyclists, the number of cycling commuters grew by 62 percent from 2000 to 2013.

Bike advocates are keen to point out that riding to work can help protect the environment, cut transportation costs and contribute to a healthy lifestyle. These are, of course, universal concerns, and there’s no reason why Bike to Work Day can’t serve as inspiration to change your commuting habits no matter where in the world you live.

In urban areas suffering from excessive traffic congestion – here’s looking at you, Yangon – cycling can actually be a faster way to get around than driving. At a casual pace, my own commute across downtown takes about 30 percent less time on two wheels than on four.

For any Yangonites thinking of taking the plunge into two-wheeled, human-powered transport between home and workplace, here are some tips on how to prepare for your ride, and how to survive when you’re on the road.


A little bit of planning can go a long way toward making bike commuting an activity to look forward to rather than something to dread.

Buy a suitable bicycle

The best bikes for Yangon are those with wide, grippy, jolt-absorbing tires, such as mountain bikes or hybrids. Half a century of monstrous anti-people rule by the Myanmar military left the country’s roadways in shambles, and while the infrastructure is slowly (slooowly) improving, you can still encounter broken pavement and crater-sized potholes in many areas around the city. These obstacles can be doubly hazardous during a monsoon deluge, when they can be obscured under a few inches of murky water.

Get organized

Have your cycling and work clothes, work supplies, bike tools and – if you return home after dark – blinking lights ready the night before. Your determination to cycle to work might not last long if it adds time and complication to your morning routine. The cheapest way to carry your stuff is in a backpack, but you’ll be more comfortable if you let your bike bear the weight: A rear rack with waterproof panniers is the best setup but might be hard to source in Yangon. Add them to your list of purchases during your next trip to Bangkok.

Wear appropriate clothing

Many bike commuters cycle in the same clothes that they wear at work, but this might not be practical during the sweat-inducing hot season or soggy monsoon season. Consider riding in sporty clothes made with quick-drying material and then changing into your work clothes once you reach the office. During monsoon, work clothes will need to be carried in waterproof bags or wrapped carefully in plastic.

Clean up at work

The ideal for bike commuters is a workplace equipped with a shower. If that’s not available, it’s easy to clean up quickly and efficiently in the bathroom using a small towel and soap, or with snow towels or baby wipes.


Here’s a quick quiz: A slow-moving car is in front of you on the road and begins drifting across the center line. The driver a) is preparing to make a left turn; b) is swerving left in preparation for making a right turn; c) is “steering” with his wrists after spotting a pagoda in the distance and clasping his hands together in prayer; or d) assumes he is King of the Universe and can do whatever he wants, screw everyone else.

Experience will teach you that the answer could be any of the above, or something completely different. To coin a phrase: Expect the unexpected when you ride a bike in Yangon. Imagine the worst possible driving behavior, and then be fully prepared to watch it unfold over and over again right before your eyes.

Avoid the door zone

The mass-scale importation of vehicles with right-hand steering wheels into a country where driving is done in the right-hand lane might be a symbol of deeper civic woes, but for cyclists it has the curious advantage of reducing the number of car doors that open in front of you as you’re cruising down the road. Still, people do occasionally emerge from the passenger side of parked cars, so it’s safest to pass with a 1-metre buffer to avoid nasty surprises.

Keep your eyes moving

Keep your eyes about 5 meters (16 feet) up the road to take note of the pedestrians, potholes, vendors and sleeping dogs in your path, and at the same time 100 meters (330 feet) ahead to register parked cars, merging traffic and other hazards. Simultaneously, remain aware of what’s happening to your left and right.

Don’t hug the curb

Riding too close to the curb will result in a noticeable increase in incidences where cars and buses fly past and then box you in, either swerving right to pick up passengers or making a very dangerous, full-on right-hand turn. Develop the habit of riding about 1 meter out from the curb, even where there are no parked cars. It will make you more visible and it gives you more room to maneuver if you need to take evasive action.

Avoid sudden changes in direction

Sometimes it’s necessary to swerve to avoid clueless drivers or insane pedestrians, but if you see a car parked in your lane up ahead, don’t wait until you are 2 meters behind it before abruptly changing lanes. About 50 meters out, start slowly angling away from the curb so that by the time you reach the car you’re already in position to pass it. Make copious use of hand signals to let drivers know your intentions.

Try not to mind the honks

Drivers in Yangon are more far more likely to use their horns than their brains, which results in an endless chorus of obnoxiously redundant bleats emitted by cars approaching from behind. This can be annoying, even maddening, but it does have the advantage of letting you know that the driver has seen you and is unlikely to knock you into the gutter.

Wear a helmet
Just do it.


Written by latefornowhere

June 5, 2016 at 12:57 am

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

Mixed fortunes at Sagaing bike races: Report and photo gallery

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Your blogger, grinding up the steep hill. Photo: Jeff Parry

The fifth and penultimate round of the yearlong MSP bike race series in Myanmar was held in Sagaing, near Mandalay, on the weekend of August 22-23, with proceeds going to benefit the victims of this month’s flooding in Sagaing Region. Our team, sponsored by Bike World bike shop in Yangon, drove up with six riders, including locals Lance Thein Soe and Moe Han, and foreigners Jochen Meissner (Austria), Ben Rowse (Australia), John Henderson (US) and myself (US).

Ben, Jochen and I were the only ones to take part in the road race on August 22, which was only 50km (30 miles) long on flat roads. My ride is best forgotten: I got a flat tire around mile 5, fixed it and carried on, only to get a second flat around mile 15, only to find that my second spare tube was faulty and could not hold air. So I packed it in and caught motorized transport back to the start/finish line. Ben did a bit better, finishing 10th overall and 3rd in the Over-26 age group in a chase group that came in around 1m 30s behind solo winner Kyaw Tun Oo.

The mountain bike race on August 23 consisted of four laps of a beautiful 7.2km (4.5-mile) course with a moderately long and steep climb, a tricky single-track descent identified on the race map as the “danger zone” (cue Kenny Loggins), and a back section on fast, flat and rolling fire roads. Nearly 60 riders participated, and the local villagers came out in force to watch the race and cheer the riders. I did a bit better than the day before, coming in 15th overall and 2nd in the Over-40 age group. Ben, a mountain biker at heart, blazed the course and took the overall win. Jochen dropped out after the first lap, as he was still suffering the effects of the previous day’s road race, which he had ridden on his mountain bike. His presence was not entirely in vain, though: Moe Han snapped his chain on the first climb but finished the race on Jochen’s bike. John Finished mid-pack, and Lance Thein Soe was more interested in having fun than exposing himself to too much pain – he even stopped for a chat or too along the way – and finished well back in the field.

The final round of the series is slated to be held in Yangon in late November or early December.


Rocky departure from Yangon. Photo: Douglas Long


The mountain bike course.


Jochen (left) and John point out the “danger zone” on the course map. Photo: Douglas Long


Ben tackles the climb. Photo: Jeff Parry


Ben on the climb. Photo: Jeff Parry


Ben on the back straight. Photo: Jeff Parry


Your blogger on the hill. Photo: Sai Yout Kyio


Villagers line the finish straight. Photo: Douglas Long


Some local spectators. Photo: Douglas Long


Lance Thein Soe cruises across the finish line. Photo: Douglas Long


Moe Han (left) laments his broken chain. Photo: Douglas Long


Your blogger (left) getting his medal for second place in the Over-40 age group. Photo: Sai Yout Kyio


The Bike World crew. Photo: Jeff Parry

And some random photos from the race by Jeff Parry:





Written by latefornowhere

August 29, 2015 at 1:11 am

Road-race to Mandalay

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My story on last weekend’s cycling events, published in the April 1 edition of The Myanmar Times:


Nyan Linn Htet (006) and Kyaw Htet Aung lead a group of cyclists on the Mandalay Hill climb. Photo: Douglas Long / The Myanmar Times

Competitive cycling in Myanmar took a step forward last weekend when the third leg of the inaugural Cycle and Make a Difference Charity Series hosted the country’s first-ever nighttime mountain bike race in Mandalay.

Held on March 27 – as part of a three-day cycling competition that also included a road race on March 28 and a cross-country mountain bike event on the final day – the event was described as a “milestone for the local cycling scene” by Khin Maung Win, owner of Myan Shwe Pyi Tractors, the series sponsor.

“I think the cyclists found it rewarding. Riders came from all over Myanmar to compete. It was quite amazing to see them all here,” he added.

The winner of each event was given a K1 million certificate to donate to a charitable organisation that works in a community in the vicinity of the race course.

The night race, which started at 7pm at the Nature’s Life Sporting Ground near the base of Yankin Hill, consisted of 10 laps of a fast 5-kilometre (3-mile) course, contested by relay teams made up of three to five riders each. The rules stipulated that no rider could do more than two consecutive laps before handing off to a teammate. Fourteen teams participated.

The winning team of Sai Aung Hlaing Sae, Aung Naing Tun and Sunny Aye, representing the Mandalay Free Riders cycling club, finished in front of a screaming crowd with a time of 2h 4m 47s, just 18 seconds ahead of a three-man team from Nay Pyi Taw.

The 50km road race on March 28 started with a quick cruise around Mandalay Palace before diverting northward onto a tough circuit that included three leg-curdling ascents of Mandalay Hill. The tattered field of 45 riders then faced a long, flat stretch to the finish line in an industrial zone southeast of the city.

The race was won by 37-year-old Min Min Han from Mandalay in time of 1h 24m 5s, with Chit Ko Ko, 21, trailing in second place by 11 seconds.

Min Min Han – who also managed third place in the over-26 age group in the cross-country mountain bike race on March 29, despite having to dismount to squeeze past a truck that briefly blocked the course – was modest about his accomplishments.

“It was a good weekend for me,” he said.

The cross-country mountain bike race – five laps of the same 5km circuit used for the night relay – was taken out by Zaw Win Ko with a time of 59m 10s. He bested his nearest competitor, Sai Aung Hlaing Sae, by 8 seconds. More than 50 cyclists participated in the race.

The women’s road and cross-country races were both won handily by 21-year-old Tin Win Kyi, a triathlete currently residing at the Youth Training Centre in Nay Pyi Taw.

“The mountain bike course was okay. It wasn’t too tough for me,” she said, “but the end of the road course had too much traffic. I had to ride carefully.”

June’s Singapore SEA Games have come too early for the youngster who has only recently joined the sporting academy, but on the basis of this performance she will be one to watch for the future when the 2017 Games roll around.

The series consists of events held every two months in different locations around Myanmar. The first event took place in Yangon last November and the second in Nay Pyi Taw in January. The fourth round is tentatively scheduled to be held in Taunggyi, Shan State, in late May or early June.

Jeff Parry, an Australian cycling guru who lives in Yangon and who participated in the night relay and cross-country races, described the weekend as a “very well-organised carnival of cycling”.

“The mountain bike course was a nice, well-chosen track with a bit of everything,” he said. “I’m already looking forward to the next event in Taunggyi.”

Written by latefornowhere

April 1, 2015 at 3:02 am

Mandalay mountain bike race

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On the last day of the Mandalay cycling weekend, I decided to participate instead of taking photos. The course was the same as Friday night: A 5km (3-mile) loop with a series of short, steady climbs and quick downhills, with nothing too technical. We did five laps, which the fastest riders completed in about one hour. My time was 1 hour 9 minutes, which was good enough for 8th place out of 29 riders in the over-26 age group. Below are some of the photos I took after the race.


The top finishers had blood drawn for drug testing.


A couple of the elder statesmen of the cycling scene.


Awards ceremony.


The Mandalay Free Riders mountain bike club.


Tin Win Kyi, first place in the women’s road race March 28, first place in the women’s XC mountain bike race March 29. Triathlete-in-training at the national youth training center in Nay Pyi Taw.


That’s me after my race. (Photo: Khin Maung Win)

Written by latefornowhere

March 31, 2015 at 1:07 am

Mandalay bicycle road race photo album

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The nighttime relay race on March 27 was followed the next morning by a 50-kilometer (30-mile) road race that started near Mandalay Palace, diverted onto a circuit that included three tough ascents of Mandalay Hill, and ended with a long flat section to the finish line. Lots of photos below, many of which I took from the back of a hired motorcycle.


Gathered for the 6am start.



Crash on the first straight section.










On Mandalay Hill.







Baffled tourists watch a rider crest Mandalay Hill.






Written by latefornowhere

March 29, 2015 at 12:56 pm

Myanmar’s first night mountain bike race

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The third round of the year-long Cycle and Make a Difference Charity Series sponsored by Myan Shwe Pyi Tractors  is taking place this weekend in Mandalay, kicking off on Friday, March 27, with the first nighttime mountain bike race ever organized in Myanmar. The race consisted of 10 laps of a fast 5km (3 mile) course, contested by relay teams consisting of 3 to 5 riders each. The rules stipulated that no rider could do more than two consecutive laps before handing off to a teammate. Eleven teams participated.

My technical skills as a photographer are not quite up to the task of capturing fast-moving cyclists in low-light conditions, but below are some of the less-blurred shots I managed to get.


Cyclists prepare to plunge into the dark countryside around Yankin Hill in Mandalay.


Teammates solve some lighting issues.


Cyclists speed into the exchange area after completing a couple of laps.


Recovering after a hard effort.


One of the three-man teams celebrates after finishing the race.


Representatives of the top three teams get their medals.


Young girls from the national sports training center in Nay Pyi Taw.

Written by latefornowhere

March 28, 2015 at 3:03 pm