On Saturday, I had the most amazing opportunity to stretch my comfort and race a 100k bike race around the Angkor Wat temples in Cambodia. It was stunning and quite challenging because although there are no hills, the roads are rough in parts - choppy loose gravel, pot holes, raw edges (not to mention cattle and chickens...)
Through a little luck and a little good planning I was actually able to stand on the podium and take 3rd place.
What a totally humbling experience that was. I don't know how the numbers shake out yet, but there were about 1200 riders - not sure how many women I competed agains in the women's 100k. But I do know for a fact that there were three women who looked amazingly strong. One crashed and two had bike issues that disabled them... but hey...a win is a win, no?
It was a 4x 25k loop, and I learned a lot of lessons.
1. Had I predicted I would stand on the podium and shake the hand of formal gvmt officials, I might have brought a hair brush.
2. I spent $75 on new tires because I had insider information on the condition of the roads. I knew to ride a cyclo cross and I knew to sacrifice a little speed for a continuous 100k, not marred by a flat. (best move ever... soooo many flats)
3. Don't waste energy being intimidated by tear drop shaped helmets and $10,000 bikes. I have a heavish Norco cyclo cross and I am heavy, myself. The bike is not nearly as important as your training and determination...and strategy.
4. Give props where due. #2 and I worked together to conserve energy. No one gets anywhere going it alone. Others matter - make your appreciation known...loud and clear.
5. Pass it on.
What do I mean by pass it on? Well, my circles of facebook friends and somehow other circles which overlap with mine got me thinking. There is a photo of me (and number 1 and number 2 - all American women, by the way) on the podium with our medals and junk and a Cambodian guy wrote "You won't see any Cambodian women up there!"
I threw on my all-caps and shouted back...FOR SURE YOU COULD SEE CAMBODIAN WOMEN UP THERE - ALL THEY NEED IS TRAINING AND OPPORTUNITY!
With 7 months left in Cambodia I am totally dedicating all of my energies to shake up women's cycling here. Stay tuned! They won't have pretty bikes and flashy gear, but they can certainly see a finish line as cycling grows here in Cambodia.