Jetlagged and exhausted from the long flight, Alex Phounsavath arrived at the Olympic Village in Rio de Janeiro for the opportunity of a lifetime – representing the Lao People’s Democratic Republic in the cycling road race at the 2016 Olympics.
The 25-year-old former South East Asian road champion was not only the sole Laos representative but was also the only cyclist from the South East Asia region selected to race in the road race. Factor Bikes provided Alex with a Factor O2 to race on as well as support getting to Rio de Janeiro.
Despite not finishing the grueling 256.6km one-day race, won by Belgium’s Greg Van Avermaet, Alex says the opportunity to race for his country was humbling and an incredible moment in his racing career.
“I am really proud and grateful to have represented my country in the biggest event of the sport,” said Alex, in a post-race interview with Factor Bikes.
Alex, who spent the weeks leading up to Rio racing in France, completed 160km before being pulled from the race with a group of riders who had fallen back, due to time limits needing to be respected on the circuits. His goal was to finish the race, but anyone who watched the live coverage will understand how difficult that was going to be racing against the top cyclists in the world.
“What an amazing feeling to ride alongside the big pros, I was super excited.”
For many cyclists, the Olympic Games is a huge dream and a hard goal to fulfill, Alex never would have imagined that he would be in Rio lining up against some of the best cyclists in the world, including three-time Tour de France winner, Chris Froome, whom Alex had the chance of meeting and getting a picture with.
“I went for a recovery ride the day after and saw him getting ready for a ride and talking to his coach alone so I stopped and asked him for a picture.”
“At the village here I met almost every superstar in cycling, all of them, at the village restaurant, I even saw some of them eating ice-cream and McDonald’s before the start of the race!”
Competing in the Olympics has been a career highlight for Alex: “Really my highlight was being able to participate at this event and every superstar of the sports that you see on TV are together in one place and having the same experience as me.”
“Rio is a beautiful city, the people are really friendly and helpful, there was a ton of cyclists on the road, the food was good and my favourite was the coconut juice – it is so tasty and so fresh.”
Alex is now returning to Laos to finish out the 2016 season racing in Asia. Factor Bikes is proud to have been a part of Alex’s “Road to Rio” experience.