Monthly Archives: July 2014

Ironman Cebu: Four cities, three sports, three days left

imagesToday, registration opens for all participants of the Cobra Energy Drink Ironman 70.3. What’s 70.3? That’s the total distance of the race: 70.3 miles. The Sunday event is actually a “Half-Ironman” as the full Ironman is twice the measurement: 140.6 miles, translating to a 3.8K swim, a 180K bike ride and a 42K marathon.

Three days from now, the length is still daunting: that’s a 1.9-km. swim, a 90-km. pedal contest and a 21K run using tired legs.

Today, the doors of The Marquee in Shangri-La Mactan will open to welcome all triathletes. By day’s end, you’ll know who’s joining: they’ll be wearing colored bands on their wrists with the IM logo. They’ll have bragging rights while roaming our city streets, quietly proclaiming to all: I hope to cross that finish line this Sunday and be an “Ironman.”

This race is life-changing. People’s lives have been altered because of Aug. 3, 2014. The reason: as soon as one has registered, first-timer or not, one has to devote innumerable hours performing free-style strokes in the 25-meter pool, four-hour-long bike rides to Catmon or Carcar or Carmen, long-distance runs that start at 4:15 a.m.

Belly bulges have been trimmed. Buckets full of sweat have evaporated. Hundreds of thousands of pesos have been spent on Pinarello Dogma bikes. GU gels have been swallowed like soft candy.

All for good. For here’s the good news: I know plenty of 39- and 49-year-olds who’ve never been fitter in their whole lives than today. Amazing, right?

Jonel Borromeo, my high school best friend, comes to mind. Over 24 months ago, he weighed over 230 lbs. and could barely circle the track oval’s 400 meters. Now, he’s lost 80 lbs. of fat and he’s a hard-core triathlete who joined Gianluca Guidicelli’s three-day bike “suffer” fest in Bohol that spanned over 515 kms. When he trekked to the U.S. for a business trip, he was stopped by the U.S. immigration because his new face and body didn’t resemble his passport photo. He was interrogated for two hours!

That interrogation brought an earful and fulfilling grin to Jonel. Ha-ha, he must have screamed inside. This is what being fit looks like, he must have told himself fronting the mirror.

1619604_631142706939972_881171607_nJonel (center) with Joseph Miller and Tenggoy Colmenares

And so, even before the starting gun will fire at exactly 6:28 a.m. this Sunday, I congratulate everyone who’s joining, especially the first-timers. Your dedication has not only made you slimmer and fitter — but, as a whole, you’re more disciplined and goal-oriented.

As Meyrick Jacalan said, “Race day is the pay off. It’s over. Enjoy.” By that, Jacs means that all your months of suffering have culminated towards this weekend. It’s time to claim the prize.

As we applaud the participants, we also thank Sunrise Events, Inc., led by Fred Uytengsu, Jr., whose family roots come from Cebu, and the woman supervising the whole spectacle, the indefatigable superwoman Princess Galura.

Cebu, as a brand, is known worldwide in the triathlon hemisphere because of the IM70.3. Our visitors descending to Mactan will not only spend good Euros but will also spread the good word (hopefully) about our beautiful island. Sports tourism, it’s nicknamed.

This means that, to all those who’ll be inconvenienced three mornings from now, please bear with this annual party. Speaking of “annual,” it looks like, after three years, Cebu will continue hosting the IM. And why not? Camarines Sur was a terrific start, bringing hundreds of newbies. But it’s small. And the water, murky and brown, can’t compare to Shangri-La’s. Three more years. That’s what I hear. Amazing Tri’ news for this multi-city hosting of Lapu-Lapu, Mandaue, Talisay and Cebu.

Me? I did the 90K bike two years ago, was scheduled to race the Individual Full last year until an injury thwarted those plans, and this Sunday, I’ll run 21K with Ralph Sios-e as swimmer and my best buddy Dr. Ronald Eullaran as biker. Our team name is JACK MEN, in honor of my late father-in-law “Jack Mendez” who passed away two weeks ago and because “we’re men of Jack.”

Pointers for the IM 70.3 first-timers

Of the 2,500 participants in next Sunday’s race, hundreds will be new. Last year, I asked a few seasoned triathletes for some pointers. Again, here are those lessons…

AYA GARCIA SHLACHTER: 1. Taper. Do not cram your workouts. 2. If you feel doubtful that you can finish the race, break down the distances in your mind. I have difficulty running 21K so I break down the run as four 5k races; this way, I am not intimidated. 3. Smile and finish strong!

CHRIS ALDEGUER. 1. Race Week = Get enough rest this week. Avoid long training sessions. Keep it short with a nice pace to stay sharp. Eat and Hydrate well. Prepare and check all gear and equipment.

2. Swim= If you are a good swimmer, position well in the front. The swim start is crowded. Positioning well will get you in a good group that can result in an overall fast pace. For the majority, it is best to take the swim easy since it is a long race. The swim can be a warmup for the bike. For the first timers, expect the swim to be chaotic. It’s important to be prepared mentally to avoid panic.

3. Bike= Since it is a long race, ride comfortably the early stage of the Bike leg. It is better to be feeling good in the later part of the Bike rather than suffer.. there is still a 21k Run to follow. Also be reminded at all times to drink and eat.

4. Run= Same with the Bike; start at a comfortable pace. A big percentage end up surviving the run rather than running the run. This often is a result of wrong pacing. It is always good to finish strong.

JANE JANE ONG. 1. Eat and rest well and get plenty of sleep. Try to sleep early every night. If you can’t sleep, just lie down in bed. 2. During race day, it’s important to pace oneself. Although the adrenaline rush might push us to swim/bike/run faster, it’s better to stick by the pace we’ve practiced to avoid getting cramps. 3. Enjoy the race!

JACS JACALAN. Pacing is critical. Going out too fast in one of the disciplines will have a consequential effect on the other two. Settle into your goal pace; you should have put in many miles in the past months at your goal pace, so it should feel natural.

Swimming with hundreds of triathletes is chaotic. Losing your goggles is a nightmare, so put-on your goggles underneath your swim cap to keep it from getting off your head. Going out hard in the swim is a huge mistake. Many triathletes push hard in the swim thinking they won’t use their shoulders during the bike and run. But hard swimming causes the body to burn more carbohydrates and this effect will last until the bike and run legs.

Ease up slightly on the last km. of the bike leg by increasing cadence and using easy gear. The transition from Bike to Run is most difficult. Reducing lactic acid levels and getting your breathing under control will enable a smoother transition. Giving up a few minutes will improve your run split more than it costs your bike split.

You’ve trained hard and with discipline. You have missed late-night partying. You have not been to the newly-opened bars. You have sacrificed family time. Most even have troubles with their wives (hehe). Race Day is the payoff. It’s over. Enjoy the race.

ANNIE NERIC. Make sure you are really prepared. Don’t worry about losing the registration fee or not participating. You are better alive than sorry. Think of yourself and family. Remember this is not an ordinary sports event.

Consult your doctor, have a check up and ensure you are fit (heart, no high blood, sugar levels). Avoid work stress; worries that may affect your condition, psyche, focus. Try to relax and try to get a good sleep the night before (this doesn’t always happen). Don’t try anything new on race day like new rubber shoes, tri suit.

Relax. Don’t tense your body and muscles. Think of good things; think of going thru the course and succeeding. This is Physical, Mental and even Spiritual. So PRAY, too! Go thru with your guardian angel. Have fun, enjoy the scenery, think of the Finish Line and look forward to a Cebu lechon!

Jack Mendez

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We were supposed to travel together this November. A lifelong boxing fan, he followed Manny Pacquiao’s every jab and uppercut. We planned to fly to Hong Kong, hop on the fast ferry to the gambling island then set-up camp inside one of the suites of The Venetian Macao.

Jacinto Mariano Natividad Villarosa Mendez, or “Jack” to the tens of thousands of people who know him, won’t make the trip to watch Pacman. No worries. Instead of a seat inside the Cotai Arena, he’ll have unobstructed front-row seats from high above, seated alongside his buddies like Kits Borromeo, Dito Bugarin, Toto Gallego and his brother Tony — with an unlimited supply of Carlos Uno on his side.

Jack Mendez, my beloved father-in-law, the man I’ve known for over half my life, passed away Tuesday last week. He was to turn 83 years old this August 17.

He left us, to those who’ve met him and laughed with him and heard his impromptu speeches that were always the most applauded — he left us all better people.

Jack’s story is amazing. Born poor, he struggled to study. In college and in law school at the USC, his pants were often torn and he borrowed books. The dean of the USC Law School disallowed him from taking the Bar Exam for fear that he’d fail and would lower the school’s passing rate. He stormed Dean Pelaez’s office and slammed a hand grenade on the table.

He took the test, passed it, became Atty. Jacinto V. Mendez. But still poor, he worked as a security guard. One of his assignments in Manila was to guard a furniture factory where he had to scoot on top of a table to avoid the crawling snakes that wandered all night.

On March 1965, he founded the Centurion Security Agency, Inc. and it went on to become one of the biggest agencies (with over 2,000 guards) in Vis-Min. Counting the years, this March would have been Centurion’s 50th anniversary.

How dad, whom we were ready to nickname, “The Man With the Golden Gun,” longed to attend his baby’s golden celebration. But, no, God has better plans. He wanted his son Jack beside Him early — to be with Him for eternity.

I consider Jack not only as a role model and mentor — but as a best friend. We had the best of times together. Each Saturday dinner that we enjoyed, each trip that we took as a family, each trek to Dumaguete or Iloilo or Bohol that we took so he could watch his granddaughter’s tennis matches — each moment we savored.

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As every Rotarian or lawyer-friend or SSS co-employee would attest, he was jolly. He’d make jokes all night. He was witty and articulate. He loved to hold the microphone and tell the funniest of stories.

He was loved. By his family, above all, led by my mother-in-law Malu, and the children, Michelle, Jasmin, Jake and Monette. By his Centurion family. As example, the day after he passed away, the Head Guards group were so shocked and moved by his sudden passing that, never mind their limited resources, they donated a substantial amount of their hard-earned salary to the Mendez family. This is love. Jack’s love returning because of his kindness.

One of dad’s mottos is GOLF: “Growing Old, Living Fine.” He lived a fine and fulfilling life. Another saying that he held dear was the 5Fs. In life, he said, we must follow these 5Fs… First, faith. God above everything else. Next, family. Third F: finances. Fourth, friends. And last, Fun.

Faith. Family. Finances. Friends. Fun. “It should be according to sequence,” he’d say. “Never, for example, finances over family or fun over friends.”

I add a sixth F in his honor: Father. He was an always-present, very thoughtful, and giving father.

This morning at 10, a mass will be celebrated at the San Isidro Parish Church in Talamban with the interment to follow at Cempark. We will lay to rest a man who loved to the fullest, laughed every problem away, rose from rags to riches with humility; a man who could make the most serious of frowns smile, who commandeered a squadron of centurions.

Jack The Centurion, we salute you. Dad, we’ll miss you.

Home is where the heart (not Heat) is

You cannot please everybody. That’s a fact of life. No matter how good you are or how sincere your intentions are, there will always be that one person — or 20.5 million Floridians — who’ll despise you. That’s life. “You can’t please everyone, nor should you seek to,” said actor Dylan Moran, “because then you won’t please anyone, least of all yourself.”

Agree. Pat Riley must be fuming bad. What happened to their four year ride, reaching The Finals all four seasons and winning twice?

Yes, but then LeBron James is The King. As today’s Jordan, his decision is honored. He is not only basketball’s best but this planet’s greatest athlete. And when you’re at the Mt. Everest of your game and only 29 years of age, you can do as you wish. The Chosen One chooses.

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After getting embarrassed by the San Antonio Spurs, LeBron must have looked at his pal Dwayne Wade’s 32-year-old banged-up body and concluded, “Man, he’s old.” This is a fact: If Miami Heat had remained with the same roster for next season, the result will be the same: they’ll get clobbered by Manu and Tony and Tim.

Stay with the old or gamble with the future? In “The Decision Part 2,” LeBron followed his heart. His heart had always resided in Ohio, where he was born. “Before anyone ever cared where I would play basketball, I was a kid from Northeast Ohio,” wrote LeBron in Sports Illustrated. “It’s where I walked. It’s where I ran. It’s where I cried. It’s where I bled. It holds a special place in my heart.”

The King is coming home. Who’d have expected that? Given their success in Miami, wasn’t the logical move to at least try one or two more seasons before leaping? I’m sure LeBron pondered on that thought. The Heat and our fellow Pinoy Erik Spoelstra have been good to him and helped him purchase what couldn’t buy in Cleveland: two NBA rings. And, yes, while Miami cracked and wilted against the Spurs, surely with some tweaking and importing of new blood, they’d have the best chance next season, right?

Maybe. But that’s now forgotten. What’s important is that a decision has been reached and it’s an astonishing one. “I always believed that I’d return to Cleveland and finish my career there. I just didn’t know when,” added LeBron. “After the season, free agency wasn’t even a thought. But I have two boys and my wife, Savannah, is pregnant with a girl. I started thinking about what it would be like to raise my family in my hometown.”

Though this issue isn’t about money, it’s not bad receiving extra: While he started with $4 million as a Cleveland rookie in 2003, James took a pay-cut when he flew south to Miami, pocketing $14.5 million in his first season. Obviously, big bucks — but for a giant of his stature, that’s small. Believe it or not, in his whole career James has never been his team’s highest-paid member. That will change starting this October with the Cavs when he pockets $22.2 million.

This story is also about forgiveness. One of the major stumbling blocks of his return was the animosity he received from the Cleveland fans, most notably the Cavs owner Dan Gilbert. Four years ago when LeBron shocked his employer with his goodbye, Gilbert wrote a scornful letter, saying LeBron was a coward. LeBron never forgot that (justified) cruelty.

Now he has. In a secret meeting last Sunday, Gilbert was said to have told LeBron, “We had five great years together and one terrible night. I told him how sorry I was, expressed regret for how that night went and how I let all the emotion and passion for the situation carry me away. I told him I wish I had never done it, that I wish I could take it back.”

LeBron reciprocated, saying that he, too, was sorry for “The Decision” that aired on worldwide TV in 2010. And so, the two shook hands, probably hugged, and ‘Bron’s coming home.

Which means that Cedar Point, the “roller coaster capital of the world,” will have to fulfill its promise of a new ride: a roller-coaster named, “King James.”

I can’t wait for the roller-coaster ride called the NBA.

Germany humiliates Brasil

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The headlines screamed, “Brazilians Mourn Nightmare,” “Neymar wouldn’t have saved Brazil,” “Massacre!” and “Germany Embarrass Sorry Brazil.”

It was an embarrassment. On home soil. Fronting tens of thousands of Brazilians and after $13.3 billion spent. Their worst-ever beating since that 0-6 loss to Uruguay in 1920. Five goals by Germany in 19 minutes. A day Luiz Felipe Scolari calls “the worst day of my life.”

Who’d have expected that? Entering the game, few believed that the hosts would win, despite Brazil never having lost a home match since 1975 — but nobody anticipated the outcome.

“It doesn’t matter whether you are a fan or not of Brazil,” said Graeme Mackinnon, “7-1 was totally from another planet.”

Yes, that planet is inhabited by 200 million football-crazy people and it’s called Planet Brasil. It was an in-your-face embarrassment.

“Germany stops when it’s the World Cup,” said Dennis Valdez, my second cousin and the son of the famed Mt. Everest leader Art Valdez and former Bacolod City Mayor Joy Valdez.

I phoned Dennis yesterday. He’s German with Pinoy blood. By that, I mean this: He resided in Germany from 2003 to 2011 and speaks fluent German. “Friends of mine from Germany whom I communicated with after the game were just as shocked,” he said. “Nobody expected the outcome.”

Dennis, who resided in cities ranging from Heidelberg to Weisbaden to Frankfurt, was at the 2006 World Cup that Germany hosted. Though he never got to see a live game, he watched every game on the large screen alongside his friends and fellow employees.

“There would be public viewing screens everywhere,” he said. “In Frankfurt’s Main River, they setup a huge, huge screen in the middle of the river and everyone watched. The atmosphere was like inside the stadium. The Germans go crazy when their team plays.”

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(Matthias Schrader/AP)

Mr. Valdez worked for Bilfinger Berger, the second largest construction firm in Germany, and he says that business stops when it’s game-time.

Recently, I read an article about the automobile giant: “Volkswagen announced that it cancelled the late shift at its main plant in Wolfsburg so workers can watch the game. The late shift from 2 to 10pm was shut down, which means that around 4,000 workers can get off work early.”

What a celebration it must have been for the 82 million Germans. What an 11-man scoring machine. Consider that, four years ago when Spain won the WC, they scored a total of eight goals… for the whole tournament!

Yet, the victors are not gloating. It’s only the semis. “Germans are humble people,” said Dennis. “I’m sure, as much as they celebrated, they also sympathized with the Brazilians. Na luoy-sila. They also pity them. This was unexpected. Remember, this is, more or less, the same German team as 2006. Eight years ago, they were very young. Four years ago in South Africa, the Germans were expected to win. Now, they’re peaking. It’s about experience.”

Nimrod Quiñones added, “Many say Brazil lost because of the absence of Neymar and Silva, but I believe the reason for the loss was they they failed to play as a team.”

Of the other semifinal (played at 4 a.m. today), Graeme Mackinnon said: “No European team has ever won in South America so the pressure will be on Argentina to try and maintain that statistic. But first they have to beat a fairly impressive Holland who are being favored to win the cup. Whoever wins (Argentina-Netherlands) will be the underdogs in the final.”

Agree. For me, like most people worldwide — especially fans of Argentina’s No. 10 — I’d love to see a Germany-Argentina ending. But not my cousin Dennis who said, “I want Netherlands. Their rivalry with Germany is unbelievable. It’s like Pakistan and India, when it comes to football.” And, my Ilonggo cousin ended saying, “Grabe ila away. Kontrahan gid sila.”

rtr3xped(Damir Sagolj/Reuters)

Wonderful Wimbledon

Day Ten: The Championships - Wimbledon 2014(Al Belo/Getty Images)

My choices lost. I picked Eugenie Bouchard and Roger Federer to each win the final point at Wimbledon. They didn’t. The crowd favorites, Bouchard and Federer, just by listening to the screams of the British, were revered.

Bouchard is stunningly pretty. Blonde, svelte, power-hitting yet not named Maria, she was the darling of The Championships. Sadly, Petra Kvitova annihilated her W dreams. The Czech checkmated her in 55 minutes. Only 20 years young, Bouchard will soon be a multiple Grand Slam lady. She has the mentality. When she reached the finals, she was not contented. That’s the hallmark of a champion — that hunger, thirst, need for more.

Roger vs. Novak Djokovic? Wow. That’s the ideal W for these W Championships. Unlike last year’s boring clay-court-like final, last Sunday was bang-bang-bang. They stood on the baseline. They rifled forehands. They swatted backhands. Serves smothered the T.

The first set was nail-biting. Just when you thought that Novak would snatch the tiebreaker, Roger inhales his 17-slam worth of experience to activate his muscles. He won 7-6. This is it! Roger fans believed. Eight Wimbledon crowns. 18 majors. Rolex watches to gift every family member after the triumph. But, no, Nole never goes away. Though he looks downtrodden, though he appears wilted with his skinny looks and skinny shorts, his heart is as large as Nadal’s. He never, ever, as Churchill would say, quits.

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Novak wins the second set. And the third. Oh no, we, Roger fans, watched from our TV sets in anxiety. The 32-year-old looked old. As Novak looked to Boris Becker and pumped his Serbian fists, Roger was, like he always is, silent and cool. He was too cool that he was close to losing the dream.

Fourth set: According to script, Roger fades. He goes down quickly 2-5 as the Philippine clock nears 12 midnight. Time to go to sleep, we say; this will be over in minutes. RF holds. It’s 5-3. Serving for the championship — and the chance to snatch back that No.1 ranking from Nadal — Novak goes down love-30. The crowd erupts in excitement. Two points later, it’s 30-all. The fans turn quiet. Moments after, Roger scores the break — it’s 4-5 and on serve! Yehey.

But Novak, ever the brave, fires back. He reaches Championship Point with Roger serving. Bang! Fault, the linesman calls it. Roger raises his arm. The slow-mo cartoon video is called and it shows that Roger served an ace. Yehey! Minutes later, deflated and in disbelief at letting slip his chances, Novak loses the fourth set, 7-5.
It’s two sets all. By this time, the momentum has shifted to Roger. He has escaped like Houdini. By the 5th set, he’s stepping forward, slamming that backhand inside the rectangle. He has nothing to lose — he should have been in the locker room at this point — and an 8th W to gain. On the other side of the net, Novak wobbles. His leg is injured. Well, not exactly. But he’s limping. Yet, he fires an ace on game point. The trainer is called (delaying tactics maybe?) and he massages the Serbian’s calves.

Roger’s fans, by this time, believe it. They can sense History in the Making. For isn’t that the Rolex ad, “It doesn’t just tell time… it tells history.” Sunday, July the 6th, was Roger’s historic date.

Well, unta. Watching the game until 1 a.m. yesterday, it was painful. It was too bad that Roger lost after that scintillating comeback; although it would have been worse pain for Novak had he lost after that 4th set meltdown.

It was one of the best matches I’ve watched — just like Chris Weidman’s win over Lyoto Machida earlier that day. It was also interesting to see the contest of the two people seated: Becker and Stefan Edberg. The other winners? Uniqlo, with their logo plastered on Novak’s shirt. And tennis… for isn’t this game unique? While all other sports involve a coach, in tennis you’re alone… What made Novak win? His heart, will, mind. Finally, the best sight of all: wearing matching dresses, Myla and Charlene. How we wished their dad climbed the box to hug the twins.

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Sporty weekend

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What a weekend for international sports! Brazil hosted four sets of World Cup quarterfinal games. Germany and Brazil are through. Early this morning, it’s possible that the Dutch and Argentinians advanced. What a final four. Neymar? That’s sad. I watched the replay of the knee kick to his back by Juan Zuniga and it looked intentional. Who flies on air with a knee bent straight to someone’s back? Neymar’s the best player and he was surely a marked man. Now, he’s out. Same with Thiago Silva. Too bad for the hosts. This might become a Germany-Argentina final next Sunday.

UFC 175: two main fights are scheduled and Chris Weidman and Ronda Rousey, the reigning champs, are expected to be triumphant.

It’s the Wimbledon final! Last night, Eugenie Bouchard battled Petra Kvitova. I’m biased. And so, if you’ve been following the green grass games, are you: I hope the Canadian 20-year-old won the final point. Isn’t she pretty? Very.

Tonight is the gentlemen’s final as two familiar foes meet. Like Chinggay Utzurrum and Michelle So, I hope Roger wins. And doesn’t he always win when Rafael Nadal loses early in the tournament? If you recall the French Open in 2009, Rafa lost early and Roger zoomed to claim the trophy. At Wimbledon, the two were slated to meet in the semis but Rafa was slain by the giant slayer Nick Kyrgios.

Roger will win because Wimbledon is his property. He’s won at the All-England Club seven times. If he wins tonight — the final is at 9 p.m., Phil. time — he will have amassed 18 major titles, tying him with Jack Nicklaus. Speaking of the American golf legend, he sat beside Rod Laver last Friday to watch the tennis festivities.

Federer has been playing superb tennis the past two weeks. And, in the only time the two met on grass, the Swiss beat the Serb — in the semis two years ago on Centre Court.

“Against Federer,” said Novak Djokovic, “the key will be to try not to allow him to dictate too much because he likes to be very aggressive.”

Roger’s reply? The same thing: “It’s really important for me to stay aggressive against him… Novak can hurt you down the line or cross-court on both sides. His forehand, his serve, his movement clearly is what stands out the most at the moment. He’s really been able to improve that and make it rock solid.”

What I like about Roger is that he’s attacking the net more. A gifted volleyer, this had often been the complaint against him in the past. Why doesn’t he move forward to finish the points up close? Thanks to his coach — one of history’s best volleyers, Stefan Edberg — the Swiss Maestro has been attacking. This will be a scintillating finale.

ENGLAND is busy this weekend because apart from tennis, it also hosts cycling and motor-racing. The Tour de France will have its first race not in France but in Yorkshire. The three-week-long Le Tour will include 21 stages and 2,277 miles of pedaling before the July 27 finish in Paris. Among the nearly 200 estimated riders, one man is expected to win. He’s a Brit and he’s the defending champ: Chris Froome.

Tennis and Formula One racing fans might probably be switching channels tonight as Silverstone hosts the Santander British Grand Prix. It’s the Golden Anniversary of Grand Prix racing in Silverstone. Watch for an Englishman with the initials LH to win the 50th edition.