Jens Funk and “The Smiling Torture”

A German IT consultant assigned at the CITE in Talamban, Jens Funk, 40, has lived in Cebu for five years and written a book, “Cycling Philippines.”

Last January 20, Jens made a bet. Alongside 30 bikers, he vowed to pedal for 185 kms.—without ever walking. If he wins, he’ll ask donations to buy helmets and bike locks for the poor. If he loses, he’ll pull his wallet out and pay for it all. Either way, dozens of less-privileged Cebuanos win. In his piece at www.bugoybikers.com entitled “The Smiling Torture,” Jens narrates his unbelievable Tour de France-like experience…

“We started at 7 am. Around 30 bikers all in good mood…

I knew it would be a hard ride and was scared. The first 65 kms. was easy cycling at an average of 30 km/h. We chatted and the sun seemed to be our friend. We agreed to have a first “refill” stop in Lugo, where we took pictures before going downhill to Tabuelan. On this stretch some riders chased each other.

“From Tabuelan (Km 88) to Balamban (Km 135), we passed rough stretches, including a crash (nothing serious) and flat tires, arrived in Balamban at 1 pm, and lunched there. By now, one could realize that the riders were serious knowing what came next. After refilling our bottles, we left at 2 pm to cross the Trans-Central Highway.

“The next 10 kms were flat, but the “big” mountain ranges came closer. Till Km 145 we cycled as a group, chatting and laughing. But this ended the moment it turned steeper. We climbed the first mountain at 850m above sea level, then the group split up and everybody was left to his own fate.

“Climbing on a road bike means finding your rhythm and staying with it. The road got steeper and I realized that I was in my granny gear. It was 2:30 pm and the sun had become a burden. I checked my odometer and it dropped to 6 km/h.

“Suddenly, I saw two group members walking. This wasn’t motivating and when I passed, they asked, “Why don’t you walk?” But I was determined to win the bet. I was also challenged to beat the monster mountains—and got encouraged through text messages. But it came to a moment when I struggled. My legs hurt and I wasn’t in a rhythm. I stopped, drank a lot, relaxed, started again.

“In my mind I knew I wouldn’t lose as long as I didn’t walk. After 500m, I stopped again. It’s cruel when you make the corner then see the road climbing up again. I really felt… that’s it. I drank again and fought between “Come on! You can make it!” and “Why the hell are you doing this?”

“I tried again. Back on the bike. And then, like a miracle, my iPod played! (I prepared it earlier but forgot.) With George Thorogood’s “One burbon, one scotch, one beer,” I focused on the music and not the road. When the song finished, I realized I found it—my rhythm!

“I used the whole road so I could go up in a zigzag. At day’s end, I would cycle 10 kms more (zigzagging) but it was a way to beat the mountain. I looked in front of me and the guys were doing the same. The problem were the cars. As soon as one approached, it was impossible to use the whole road. I got cramps. Still, slowly, I got closer to the peak. The view over the valley was amazing. It recharged me.

“Finally I made it up to Kantipla. By now, I had confidence that I could make it. We regrouped, went downhill, then Ayala Heights stood after.

“Even the easy climb to Ayala Heights was torture. I cramped on that stretch but ignored it. At this time it drizzled—which helped. After another downhill the last climb awaited us. When I crawled around the last bend and saw the saddle of Tops less than 80m away, I felt an indescribable happiness. On Tops I got teary-eyed and shouted. I never had such a feeling before. In the last downhill to Willie’s, we were smiling. After we arrived, I had 185km on my odometer and could almost not get off my bike. After 10 hours of cycling, my back was sore and my legs hurt—but the feeling was overwhelming. I made it!”

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