The Women of BikingMan
The Women of BikingMan
2018 BikingMan Champion Rodney Soncco won this year’s opening round in Oman, dominating a field of more than 60 ultracyclers. He covered the1,050-km circuit in 38h20m,more than two hours ahead of runner up, Jason Black. Both have entered BikingMan Laos on 20-24 May.
Jasmijn Muller (Photo courtesy of Total Women's Cycling)
However, the real battle in Oman was for 7th place, with three competitors finishing within 20 minutes. Dutchwoman Jasmijn Muller missed out on 8th by a mere two minutes. Helle Bachofen von Echt finished 10th, less than an hour behind Muller, and almost 90 minutes ahead of Simon de Schutter in 11th.
Eight women entered BikingMan Oman, and they didn’t race in a separate class than men.
“BikingMan is one of the very few cycling competitions in which women and men are starting, racing, and finishing (as equals),” said Axel Carion, BikingMan founder and CEO.
Muller is no stranger to competing with men. In 2017, she set a new indoor cycling record – topping Chris Hopkinson’s previous best. According to Total Women’s Cycling, she pedalled 1,828km in 62h4m.
Muller said, “It was a proud moment to be able to prove that when it comes to endurance sports, women can be just as good as men, and sometimes beat them. It felt amazing. I hope I did women around the world proud, and gave them confidence to go after their own goals.”
Helle Bachofen von Echt (Photo courtesy of Sport 360°)
The 40-year-old Bachofen von Echt echoed Muller, telling Sport 360° “I am still a little bit in shock, over the moon, and extremely surprised and proud of my time. I finished…right behind the semi-pros at the top…On behalf of women, I am deeply proud of us!” Bachofen von Echt will be at the starting line at BikingMan Corsica on 29 April-3 May.
Also competing in Corsica is Canadian Cat Terleski, a BikingMan newcomer, who finished the Oman race in 42nd place with a time of 80h34m. This is nothing to shrug at; completing a BikingMan race in the allotted time is a win. This is no “participation trophy” race.
For Terleski, the race was a life-changer. “Sitting on the floor of my room in Muscat, I struggled to let what I had just finished register with me,” she posted on her Facebook page. “This is truly a race that challenges you. You finish in awe of what you and others are capable of as humans...You finish with a new perspective of happiness.”
Cat Terleski n the middle of nowhere
Days later, she quit her job for an ultracycling life. “Feeling like I was making a reckless decision, I checked with my all-knowing, forever-wise mother, and asked her if she thought I was being too impulsive. Her reply, ‘I understand all of that, and you have our full support.’”
Clémence Raffi is bringing family into the BikingMan Corsica race picture in the Pairs competition, teaming with her 60-year-old father Jean-Jacques.
Clémence and Jean-Jacques Raffi
The family cycling affair began years ago, as Dad is a keen cycler. According to Raffi’s blog, she told her father that they needed a challenge, and biking was the obvious choice. “He passed on this (cycling) passion to me.”
“We began to look for what could interest us. Then we came across a publication for Biking Man Corsica…It fit perfectly with the notion of the challenge we wanted,” she said. “We are aware of the difficulty of the event, but we want to share this adventure together and finish it.”
As of 1 April, Rachel Banfield from New Zealand is the only woman registered for BikingMan Laos, though entries tend to pour in after the previous race. She is also a newcomer to BikingMan, and comes with no notable competition background, but definitely has the drive to compete.
Rachel Banfield in Chine
In May 2014, she took off alone from Hong Kong to the UK with no real plan. The rough route headed Mainland China, then on to Kazakhstan – Kyrgyzstan – Uzbekistan – Turkmenistan – Iran – Turkey – Eastern/Central/Western Europe, and then finally Scotland.
“My route (was) very flexible,” Rachel said on her blog. “I want the adventure to be people and experience-driven, rather than map driven.”
All these tales point to the ability of women to compete with men on the same playing field, and at a high level. In fact, dividing women and men can lead to chaos as seen at a Belgian cycling race in March this year.
Swiss cyclist Nicole Hanselmann was catching the support vehicles for the men's race, which had set off 10 minutes before the women.
The organisers of the race around the Flemish Ardennes halted the women's race to restore a clear gap between the two groups. In other words, they put the women’s race on ice.
According to MSN, the organisers gave Hanselmann a head start once the women got the green flag, but she failed to maintain her previous lead, and finished 74th.
“It was a bit sad for me, because I was in a good mood, and when the bunch sees you stopping, they just get a new motivation to catch you,” she told Cyclingnews.
Enter BikingMan. They don’t care if you’re a man or woman, or old or young. They offer a physical, mental, and experiential challenge. You won’t find support vehicles at a BikingMan race. What you’ll find are special people pushing the limits, and women have proven they can hold their own.
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