A Nepali mountain biking phenom has a quest to grow the sport in her country by competing at this year’s BC Bike Race in Squamish.
Known affectionately among fans as “the queen of the mountain,” Laxmi Magar is the seven-time national women’s mountain_biking champion of Nepal.
Speaking to Global News from Kathmandu, Magar said she hopes to use her competitive experience in British Columbia to inspire young women to pick up the sport back home.
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“I have a lot of friends who are (starting) mountain biking sports, now they can enjoy and participate but they used to come to me and share with me that they like to do it like me. It’s inspiring, it’s actually inspiring me!” said Magar.
“I was so interested to do men’s sports from the beginning because I could see only men in mountain biking in Nepal. I dreamed to ride like the boys, so I started biking.”
Magar entered the sport in 2008, beginning with local races, before deciding to pursue it more seriously — travelling to the South Asian and Asian Games and winning the Yak Attack Adventure Stage Race at the Annapurna Circuit.
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Among her many awards, she is most recently the gold medalist in Mountain Bike Cross Country Olympic at the 2019 South Asian Games.
The 33 year old has also completed the Annapurna circuit several times, a grueling roughly 18-day bike trek within the mountain ranges of central Nepal, spanning between 160-230 kilometres.
Squamish’s BC Bike Race, by comparison, is a seven-day stage race, where riders typically put down 50 kilometres per day.
Despite her success, Magar says there are still very limited resources available for elite athletes in Nepal, and even fewer for female athletes.
“In races there used to only be men’s category or men’s category. At most of the local races, we used to ask them about female categories. We started doing that for many years. It’s better now,” she said.”
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“Recently we have big numbers. Even if it’s small for Canada, it’s good.”
At first, Magar recalls she was one of about five elite female racers in the country of 29.1 million.
That number has since grown to 20 and she wants to see the upward trend continue.
“I had no basic things for cycling. I didn’t have bicycles, gear, or cycling shoes. I never used to have it. It’s very difficult. I used to borrow bikes from boys,” she explained.
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“When I was able (to get gear) from the other side of the world, I would share with my friends so they became interested in biking. It was a little bit of help. They can feel at ease. Problems getting into the biking industry can get easier.”
When she’s not conquering summits, Magar and several friends work at the Nepal Cycling School mentoring new riders. The group created the school for children during the early stages of the pandemic.
Determined to continue to expand the sport at home, Magar has teamed up with Squamish resident Marlene Ford, who is involved with BC Bike Race, to travel to Canada to compete.
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The two met at a race in Nepal in 2016, where they became fast friends and started hatching a plan.
“I discovered it was a dream of hers to race BC Bike Race. She had heard of it in Nepal. It’s a world away but she had heard of it. Pretty cool if you can make someone’s dream like that come true,” explained Ford.
“She’s killing it and she loves what she’s doing. She loves it. She has huge obstacles, so many roadblocks but she’s still there.”
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Ford spoke with other race organizers, who offered to sponsor Magar’s entrance fee if and when she is able to make it to British Columbia.
“To give her the chance to come over here and race, ride trails in a different country, I think she will take that all back with her. I think it will make her even more enthusiastic for the sport, in bringing these kids in. She works a lot with girls and really wants girls out there,” she added.
The two have been talking regularly by video call and eagerly planning fundraising events to help with the cost.
After BC Bike Race, Magar has her sights set on trying to qualify for the 2024 Summer Olympic Games in Paris.
“We have a family in the cycling world, it’s good to be in a family,” said Magar. “It’s a more joyful ride.”
© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
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