Sara Clawson, a current UNCG EdD in KIN student, recently went to Doha, Qatar for the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) Road Cycling World Championships, as head soigneur for TWENTY16 Ridebiker Women’s Professional Cycling Team. As head soigneur, she took care of the needs of the riders for their peak performance. Her team competed in the Team Time Trial event in which teams of 6 ride the same course at staggered intervals, with the fastest time taking the victory. The Team Time Trial event is a unique form of road bike racing where the finishing time is taken from the 4th rider across the line, requiring a lot of strategy, race tactics, energy, and teamwork.
She recalled that the trip to Doha was not easy. The trip took about 20 hours of total travel time to get there and adjusting to the 7-hour time difference was difficult. The logistical and financial nightmare of transporting the team’s bicycles and equipment halfway across the world, the non-potable tap water all factored into the difficulty of this undertaking. Some other notable differences in competing overseas as compared to last year’s UCI World Championships in Richmond, VA, included lack of spectators. She also mentioned the outrageous heat in Doha. It was 102 degrees on race day and even hotter later on in the week. The organization of the event was not well coordinated and the poor communication between the race officials, police, and volunteers, and the road conditions (perfectly flat, sandy and wind-blown, ubiquitous construction, outrageous number of traffic circles and sharp speed bumps) definitely were not conducive to a perfect race.
Despite some difficulties she faced in Doha, she described Qatar as a place unlike anywhere I’ve been. It was her first time in the real heart of the Middle East and she learned and experienced many socio-cultural environment in Doha. She said that the most memorable moment in Doha was the moment when she walked out on the hotel veranda overlooking the bright morning sun on the Persian Gulf and seeing the most incredible breakfast spread that she has witnessed in her entire life. She mentioned that she loves Middle-Eastern cuisine and exploring other cultures through food is one of her greatest joys in international travel.
She also shared a somewhat frightening episode in Doha. In the opulence of the hotel where she and her team stayed, it was easy to forget they weren’t in the West at times, but having one of the team trucks swept for IEDs in the undercarriage at one point and bomb-sniffing dogs with armed guards being brought through the team area at the race to check bags were stark reminders that they were far from home and, even with Qatar’s relative stability and openness, it’s a volatile part of the world after all.
Lastly, she talked about how the EdD program helped her during the competition in Doha. She said, “the leadership aspect of KIN 762 Program Design in Kinesiology and Related Professions taught by Dr. Pam Brown has made a dramatic impact on how I see the dynamics within a cycling team”. It has also helped her be more aware of how she fits into it. She said, “the EdD has also made her more adaptable and less rattled by failure”. When her truck was forced off the course by a Qatari police officer who didn’t understand her role, her team manager and she had to drive 50 km out into the desert where GPS ceased to work and ended up following buses to an alternate main road back to Doha. What she learned in the EdD course helped her to keep calm and carry on! She expressed her passion to pursue her academic goals and apply that knowledge to leadership, advocacy, and teaching.