The other day, we had the chance to check out what a training ride entails for the men’s and women’s national cycling teams. We met both teams on the outskirts of Kabul, and the mountains glowed as if to welcome us all to another beautiful day. The men’s team had ridden to this meeting spot, while Coach Sadiq had picked up the six women who were available that day to ride. Upon meeting up with the teams we confirmed that the planned route was closed due to protests in the next town up, so quickly picked a new route and watched the men’s team peddle off towards the next stop. We then loaded the women’s bikes and riders onto our bus and continued to film, while on the bus.
As women in Afghanistan, there are still many precautions the team must take in order to be as safe as possible. Starting their ride outside of the city, was one of them. The men’s team met us at the drop off point, and after we unloaded their bikes and pumped up a few tires – it was time to film both teams, as they continued the ride together.
Taking advantage of a long, and somewhat flat road, we were able to pass, slow and even stop the bus a few times, to fully capture their concept of a training ride.
For women, riding a bike is still considered taboo in many areas of Afghanistan, however, we have learned while being here that Kabul is much more progressive in thought than many other regions. Regardless of the thought in Kabul, once you leave the city, you also leave that openness of thought. The riders then have to protect themselves from any and all types of transportation speedily passing by, while avoiding the large potholes, as best as they can – which is a feat in and of itself, since there were more potholes per half-mile of road than crappy buffets in Las Vegas.
A good 45 minutes later, the training ride culminated with a breakaway group consisting of one man, and one woman. They continued for another 5K before we picked them up, while the rest of the team formed a line, with Sadaf pulling the team back to the bus.
As we loaded the bikes back onto the bus, shared waters with the team and scanned the scene for a few more shots, the clouds shifted and the rain began. Much like we know that even when the thickest of clouds enshroud the mountains, they are still there — we know that if any of the women on this national Afghan team decides to pursue a life as a cyclist, we will be there to help support as best as we can.
As the Afghan Cycles film comes together more and more with every day of production, we grow more and more in awe of these teammates, the coach and the barriers that they are breaking – whether they realize it or not. Please continue to follow our Afghan Cycles Facebook Page + Twitter Page. Should you feel moved to donate to the project – please visit Mountain2Mountain.
Fist bumps to you all, and a big thank you.