I spent over a decade as a sports trainer.
When I turned 32 I left that career behind me to start a non profit that fought for the rights of women in conflict zones, and started my work in Afghanistan.
I never thought my career in sports and conditioning would play a role in my current work as an activist and humanitarian. Yet, yesterday, after a long meeting with the Coach of the Afghan Men’s and Women’s National Cycling Team, my old profession became my new job description: Coach of Afghan Cycling Teams at the upcoming Asia Games this September in South Korea.
The last two months I have been working with the Afghan National Women’s Team to develop some basic development and training. I join them on training rides and work on small steps to add into their training, sometimes as simply as a lesson in shifting. In April I brought the team to the mountains of central Afghanistan in Bamiyan province for a long training ride, and scouted as a potential location for a future women’s race. I delivered brand new racing bikes, clothing, tools, and helmets for the national team thanks to our partnership with sponsor Liv/giant.
The men’s national team is much more developed than the women’s, in large part because boys grow up here riding bikes while girls are forbidden to ride. They are stronger, have better handling skills, and look like cyclists in their lycra and their clip less pedals. But, cycling as as sport is new in Afghanistan and over the last two visits I have brought used road bikes, new mountain bikes, gear, and clothing to support their development and the development of cycling into other provinces. Beyond equipment, both the teams need training and coaching development. Right now, both teams need the basics: Nutrition, hydration, training plans are needed before we even really discuss racing techniques.
Ironically that’s my background. I am a mountain biker, not a road cyclist. I do not know how to corner downhill on a road bike at speed, or how to draft, or slingshot a sprinter through the finish line ala Mark Cavendish, but I know how to build a foundation of conditioning, how to develop strength and speed, and how to teach a cyclist nutrition and hydration principles.
And I have a few aces in my pocket with my Board of Directors and Advisory Council of Mountain2Mountain.
Dr. Allen Lim, founder of Skratch Labs. He’s worked at the Tour de France level with pro cyclists, he worked with Taylor Phinney through the London Olympics, and created a revolution in how athletes fuel and hydrate.
Chrissie Wellington, 4 x World Ironman Champion and major voice in women’s sports.
Dotsie Bausch, Olympic medalist and founder and coach of Empower Coaching Systems.
We can pull in the big guns to start building a foundation of incredible coaching development and training for both the Afghan National Teams while at the same time I work to normalize bikes for girls and create a social revolution on bikes that will allow bikes to be ridden without dishonor or controversy throughout areas of Afghanistan, creating a revolution on two wheels.
photos by Deni Bechard