In December, 700 cyclists from 25 countries will don Lycra for the 7th annual Angkor Bike Race and Ride to raise money for vulnerable children in Cambodia. Todd Sigaty, race founder and board member of host organisation Village Focus International, saddles up for a chat about fancy dress, medals and speedy racers
What makes the Angkor Bike Race special?
This event may be the most unique bike event in the world. It is a fun, healthy activity that attracts a great group of people to ride in solidarity in a magical location – Angkor Wat – the World Heritage site that is the largest religious temple complex in the world. The Bike Race & Ride, while not entirely car or tourist free, does offer a special glimpse of the magnificent site. Most importantly it is for a great cause – to support vulnerable youth in Cambodia.
What has been the highlight of the event so far?
Other than the growth of bikers, sponsors and volunteers, I think the most amazing improvement is the growth of young Khmer riders, including Khmer youth racing teams comprised of teenage boys from economically challenged families who are sponsored to train and participate. During the past two years, they have won the most medals. Cambodian riders now represent 50% of the participants.
What do the local Siem Reapers make of hundreds of Lycra-clad cyclists whizzing past Angkor Wat?
They are incredibly supportive. Since the ride occurs at sunrise and vehicle traffic is limited, the majority of the people on the course are the few hundred local families who live and work in the Angkor complex and line the road to smile, clap, laugh and cheer on the bikers.
Tell us about the 76-year-old who races the 100km route…
He is a serious cyclist and a very inspiring and joyous man, who raises hundreds of dollars each year to support the event and the Cambodian youth. He also mentors the young Khmer racers. Most people are not able to keep up with him at all and he rides the 100km event. I hope he rides every year.
Some participants have started their own fundraising attempts and gained sponsors for their ride. What’s the best story you have come across?
There are some participants who raise a few thousand dollars from friends or businesses, but the most inspiring stories are young riders who get 30 or 40 friends to sponsor them, or the families with kids under ten who travel for the event with bags of donations from their friends at school back home. The fun part is that the bikers now represent their own communities and countries and take back pictures and memories. Each year we give an award to the top three fundraisers and for each child aged under 12 that completes the ride.
Has anyone ever competed in fancy dress as part of a fundraising venture?
Yes – we have a few cyclo teams each year, including one woman who cyclos with her dog. Every year, there are bikers and runners for the marathon who wear incredible animal costumes. We also give fun awards, such as to this one man, in the first year, whose pedal broke, yet he still finished the course with one pedal. The following year, he broke his arm and was going to cancel, but everyone sent their love and support and he surprised us by showing up and rode the entire race with one arm – the one-pedal and one-arm rider is an award-winning cyclist.
Do you plan to host other fundraising bike events across the region?
We have started a similar bike event in Sihanoukville and there has been talk about Laos, but the Angkor one is special.