Category Archives: Cycling

Tour de France

Of all the games that I play (tennis, running, basketball), the one I enjoy most is biking. Maybe it’s the wind that splashes on your face as you descend at 44 kph. Maybe it’s the sweat that envelops your body as you pedal Maria Luisa. It may be the company of friends, laughing and chatting with Ron, Ronnie, Jourdan and James. It’s like drinking with your buddies minus the alcohol. It’s surely because as a little kid, age 10 and residing in Bacolod, my brother Charlie and I endlessly roamed Mountain View Subd. on BMX wheels.

In Cebu, biking is hugely popular. There are serious cyclists like Jong Sepulveda, Tonyson Lee, Miguel Flores and JV Araneta who would sleep with their roadbikes if their wives would say yes. There are hundreds of recreational bikers who pedal beyond Marco Polo Hotel, past Willy’s and reach the peak called Buak.

Cebu is perfect for biking because of the mountains. Our friends from Manila have to travel two hours to MTB in Tagaytay. In Iloilo, they have to cross to Guimaras Island. In Bacolod, makadto pa sila sa Mambukal or Don Salvador Benedicto. For us Cebuanos, the hills reside in our backyard. Just warm-up towards JY Square and you’re ready to scale Busay.

I write about cycling because “Le Tour” is about to finish. And while many of us pedal almost daily, our regimen is miniscule compared to what these supermen go through. How tough is the 104th edition of TdF, where 198 riders from 22 teams started in Dusseldorf, Germany last July 1 and only 167 riders remain?

Total distance for 21 race days (with two rest days in the middle) is a whopping 3,540 kms. Can you believe that? Pedaling 200K everyday at an average speed of 40 kph. These include climbs like the Col du Galibier at 2,642 meters high. Downhill? They are crazy fast, descending faster than 70 kph.

Some fun facts about Le Tour: This race isn’t limited to France as the riders also pass through Germany, Belgium and Luxembourg. There are an estimated 12 million spectators along the route. The winner of the tour? He pockets $583,000 (Php30 million). This is large but paltry compared to the $10M of Senator Pacquiao.

Today is the last day of the Tour de France, ending each July in the same area along Champs-Elysees. The final 104-km. flat stage is ceremonial because whoever wore the yellow jersey yesterday will not be challenged or attacked. After three weeks of climbing the French Alps and the Pyrenees, today’s 21st racing day is a relaxing finish towards the heart of Paris.

Yesterday was one of the most crucial stages. I don’t know what happened (Stage 20 starts past my deadline) but it’s expected that the defending champion will gain time over his rivals. It’s the Individual Time Trial (when they bike alone, unaided by teammates) and this second-to-the-last stage runs only 22.5 kms. But because of the speed and skill involved, precious time can be won or lost.

Speaking of time, would you believe that, after 19 race days, the leader is ahead by only 23 seconds? He carries an overall time of 83 hours 26 minutes and 55 seconds and the second-placer, Bardet Romain, is only 23 seconds behind? That gap is about the length of time it will take you to finish this paragraph. Incredible. That’s why Lance Armstrong’s book was entitled, Every Second Counts. Because it does.

The winner? The man who’ll wear that maillot jaune (yellow jersey)? It will be his fourth after wins in 2013, 2015 and last year. Because his parents are British, he rides for the U.K. but he was born and raised in Nairobi, Kenya. In yellow, It’s Chris Froome.

Tour ni Frank and Tour de France

Both rhyme. Both involve utilizing two God-given legs to power a vehicle up a steep mountain. Both are celebrated. Of course, nothing compares to the July 1 three-week-long race in France called “Le Tour.” But here in Cebu, we have one cycling race that’s renowned.

It’s the 15th edition of Ang Tour ni Frank and it’s happening today and tomorrow. It all started when Frank Gatdula — who moved to America after high school in 1976 — visited his hometown of Compostela.

“In 1999, I came home and met Dr. JV Araneta who introduced me to Cebu Recycle members,” Frank said. “Riders who would race at the North Reclamation Area every Saturday morning and put in P20 as entry fee. It was like a ‘bente-bente’ winner-take-all race. Watching the guys racing hard for little money impressed me so I decided to donate a little cash to add to their prize money. From then on, every year I come home, I would sponsor an event during Sinulog. It was originally called ‘Cebu Recycle Race Series’ and somehow someone started calling it Ang Tour ni Frank (TnF), synonymous to the big Tour de France. My little donation snowballed into a big event, from bente-bente criterium race to a 3-day stage race that has been attended by a few foreigners.”

Pictured above, Frank Gatdula’s love affair with cycling began in 1983 after he entered the U.S. Air Force. He hasn’t stopped pedaling since and has raced in the U.S. Cycling Federation (Category 4).

“TnF is Cebu’s longest organized road race,” Frank added. “When we started, it was my intention to help build the grassroots. I sponsored a few local riders, including buying new road bikes for those with potential. Over the years, the vision has developed and we now have more bikers and road events.”

The TnF schedule? “Today (Saturday), we will have two races,” he said. “First stage, to start outside JY Square, traverses through the Busay Road and finishes in TOPS. This is the most challenging stage of the TnF. The 2nd stage is the Twilight Criterium near Lantaw SRP. It’s a 2.2 km. stretch with two hairpin turns for 40 minutes. The second day (tomorrow) will take us from Danao to just north of Lugo with a distance of 90 kms. We also have two ‘King of the Mountain’ awards.”

A total of 150 participants are expected with over 30 arriving from outside Cebu. And since this is the 15th anniversary, Frank has added special awards for Most Aggressive Rider, Oldest Rider and Youngest Rider. To avid cyclists, don’t miss Ang Tour ni Frank.

Read “Appreciating the Tour ni Frank” by my good friend and fellow writer, Dr. JV Araneta.

A Giant in the world of cycling

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Taichung, TAIWAN — The word “giant” means “colossal,” “jumbo,” “mammoth” and “gigantic.” This word aptly describes the City of Taichung when it comes to biking.

GIANT. I mean, the brand. If you’ve entered Bikecology in BTC, chances are you’ve seen the name. It sounds American. The word itself is one of the English language’s most common terms. And when you see the GIANT brand prominently written on a bicycle, you’d think it’s from the U.S. It’s Taiwanese. And, to be more specific, it’s “Made in Taichung.” This city is the third largest in Taiwan (next to Taipei and Kaohsiung) and it’s a highly-progressive marketplace.

Giant, upon my further investigation, is not only “Made in Taiwan” but it happens to be the world’s largest bicycle manufacturer. Yes, no mistaken wording there: Each year, Giant produces over 6.3 million bicycles and grosses US$1.8 billion.

Here in Taichung, dozens of Giant shops are sprinkled everywhere. In bright blue color, the signage outside bike shops is giant-sized. Last Friday, I visited one mega-shop in the Dongshan District and it’s littered with over a hundred bicyclyes — of different colors, shapes and prices — plus hundres of varied bike components and gear. Wanting to bring a souvenir from the land of the Giant, I looked at some cycling jerseys. I thought they’d be heavily discounted but, priced around NT$2,200 (times 1.5, that’s P3,300), I declined. Instead, I opted for a “miniature Giant” — a small bike-replica that cost $560 NT and was given to me for $400 (P600).

As it was a mid-weekday morning, there was only one other customer while I checked the items. I spoke to Justin, the owner, and his shop not only housed the complete line of Giant goods — but also a sizeable room for repairs. Plus, an innovative feature of the store (since it was located along a main road), there was an “Air Pump Self Service” right outside for anyone with deflated tires to use for free. Excellent idea.

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185 WAREHOUSE. The giant Giant store wasn’t the only shop I visited. Together with my friend here from Manila, Albert Go-Alcantara, we went to the largest bike shop in Taiwan. It’s called 185 Warehouse Shop in Daken, Taichung and it’s humongous. It’s a five-story building stocked with so many bicycles and gear that you feel like you’re an 11-year-old inside Toys ‘R Us. They have a cozy coffee shop at the ground level (with a hanging road-bike as decor) and several floors of everything-cycling. The interesting thing with this shop is, they don’t have Giant bikes! They have all the other brands but no Giant. (From what I read, to be a Giant distributor, they require that you stock almost all Giant items — and this store is different.)

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Another exciting happening: Taichung Bike Week (TBW) is near and it will bring many of the world’s top manufacturers, suppliers and companies in this city. TBW runs from November 5 to 8 and two prominent Cebuanos whom we know very well — Chris Aldeguer and Mike Flores, who operate Vellum (www.vellumcycyles.com), a brand I personally use — are intending to join.

But here’s a bizarre twist on Taichung cycling: While this city houses “the world’s largest bike manufacturer (Giant),” not many of its residents are into biking. At least, that’s what Jasmin and I have observed along the city streets. Motorcycles, yes, they run plenty — but not bicycles.

TAIPEI. In Taiwan’s capital city of Taipei, it’s a different story. There, bicycles are being pedaled everywhere. Bike lanes are a natural extension of the road and, for the best part, there are numerous bike-for-rent shops scattered all over. You just need to register, deposit a bond, and you can rent bicycles at spots around town. For one hour, it’s NT$15 (P23). Taiwan being the world’s bike capital, they have several bike options: multi-speed, folding bikes, mountain bikes and even tandem bikes! You hop on a bike and can drop it off at another spot. It’s easy, inexpensive, convenient — and promotes zero-pollution and exercise. Cebu should have this!

Lance Armstrong: Still an inspiration

We don’t know the truth. He may have. He may have not. Nobody but Lance Armstrong knows the truth. But, this truth we know: Among the billions of inhabitants our planet has hosted, he is the greatest human being ever to pedal on two wheels.

Pele. Ali. MJ. Federer. Phelps. Bolt. The name “Lance,” without question, belongs in the same sentence as those revered icons.

Remember the LA story? He was scheduled to die. A world cycling champion by the age of 21, he succumbed to testicular cancer that spread throughout his youthful system. Doctors declared him dead. Or, at least, they gave him a 30 percent chance of survival.

Biking? Climbing the Pyrenees? Winning a race… any race? Ha. Ha. Ha. Forgot those. How about breathing? Standing up? Walking? He walked. He climbed the Trek saddle. He pedaled. Then, miraculously, shortly after that near-death moment, he wins the 1999 Tour de France. Not once or thrice–but seven times, the most of any cyclist. And more than that, he won them every July from ’99 to 2005. Seven straight.

We all know the Tour de France. It is the single most excruciating and painful of endeavors, UFC included. You bike everyday for 23 days (with only two days of rest in between). The total distance for those three weeks? About 3,500 kilometers–many of those climbing the steepest of climbs atop the Pyrenees or the French Alps.

But more than his accomplishments on the bike, his life’s more enduring impact was felt in the cancer community.

Livestrong, his foundation, was started in 1997. It will turn 15 years old in October.

Did you know that almost $500 million (that’s over P21 billion!) has been raised by Livestrong? Can you imagine the tens of thousands of lives that money has helped save?

Added a CNN report: “More than 100,000 people have engaged in an awareness-raising activity such as running, walking or riding in the name of Livestrong.”

To me, this is Lance Armstrong. The inspiration. And this is how I choose to remember him. Like my good friend Dr. JV Araneta, who wrote a beautiful piece (“A Champion Forever”) in The Freeman yesterday, I’ve long concluded this statement: Lance is a hero.

That’s why yesterday, while playing tennis, I wore my favorite “US Postal” yellow cap. And, two afternoons ago while mountain biking in Maria Luisa, I wore the black-and-yellow Livestrong jersey and cycling shorts.

Chris Aldeguer, who has followed Lance even before his ’99 TdF victory, has made the same conclusion. When I chanced upon Chris early Sunday night, we biked and talked about Lance. Chris’ words? Though it’s highly unusual for a fighter like Lance not to fight this legal battle, he knows that the USADA has made its “You’re guilty!” verdict from the very start… and so it’s useless to fight.

“I’m focused on the future,” said Armstrong after joining a mountain-biking race in Colorado. “I’ve got five great kids, a great lady in my life, a wonderful foundation that’s completely unaffected by any noise out there, and we’re going to continue to do our job. The people like the people who are standing around here or on the course, they voiced their opinion in the last 48 hours and are going to support us.”

Optimistic. Looking ahead. Pedaling forward. Regardless of the mountain to climb, that’s Lance.

Ormoc City’s TLBF

Last Thursday, I wrote about Atty. Gregorio Larrazabal, who recently retired after a seven-year stint with the Commission on Elections (Comelec). Goyo, as he is known to all, is now focused on another mission: Biking.

In 2002, he launched the Terry Larrazabal Bike Festival (TLBF). In honor of his late father, Terry, the TLBF is a weekend-long party of cyclists and mountain-bikers that has become the biggest yearly gathering for pedal-pushers. “We’ve brought the festival back to where it started and where it belongs,” said Goyo, on the TLBF to be held in Ormoc City. “The 2011 TLBF will be more ‘homegrown.’ I just retired, so we wanted make it more ‘local.’”

While Atty. Larrazabal was the youngest commissioner of the Comelec, he had to be based in Manila. And so, for 2009, the TLBF was held in nearby Subic. Not this year. What makes this the country’s biggest? “Normally, events happen within a day and after, everyone goes home. Having 100 to 200 participants makes the event already big (in Mindanao, you might have 500+ participants for a MTB XC event). For the 2009 TLBF, there were about 1,200 competitors,” said Goyo.

“For a regular event, they might have one to three races. The TLBF in 2009 had about 14 races and 10 side events. The TLBF is one of the very few events where cyclists from all parts of the Philippines come to attend. And in 2009, we had participants from 14 countries (excluding the Philippines). The 2006 festival appeared in about a dozen international magazines (US, South America, Asia and Europe). This year, we have 20 radio stations running our radio ads nationwide. We’re also the first cycling event outside the U.S. included in the Dirt Rag Magazine World Tour.”

The TLBF will be held this Thursday to Sunday (March 31 to April 3). In the official website, www.tlbf.org, you will see the list of activities. For bikers, there are numerous races: Cross-country, single speed cross-country, 29er cross country, Downhill, Time Trial, Criterium and, the most fun, a “Beer Run” where, “after completing a pre-determined cross-country course, participants must finish drinking five bottles of beer, before being declared as winner.”

The TLBF is not all biking. Included are the following diverse sporting competitions: Ultimate Frisbee, softball, boxing, shoot-fest (Level 2 PPSA), and a national Football invitational. Plus, as Ormoc is known world-wide for this most delicious fruit, there’s the Pineapple Trail Run. “It will be the most unique off-road marathon in the Philippines,” explains Goyo. “Imagine running through and across a pineapple plantation, with pineapples on both sides and cowboys on their horses as marshals!”

Goyo Larrazabal: My Comelec story

Mention the words “Larrazabal” and “Running” in the same sentence and you get a unanimous reply: Y-O-N-G. That’s Dr. Potenciano Larrazabal III, the most prominent marathoner in Cebu.

Mention the words “Larrazabal” and “Biking” in the same line and, this time, you get a different answer but with nearly the same letters interchanged: G-O-Y-O. That’s Atty. Gregorio Larrazabal. Yong and Goyo are cousins. One is an eye doctor; the other, a lawyer with an eye for public service. In sports, no two people are more passionate.

Hans Rey with Goyo L.

Atty. Goyo Larrazabal, of course, we saw on TV. During the 2010 elections, he was the youthful face of the Comelec. He was the “rookie” tasked to spearhead a first in PHL politics.

“I was in COMELEC for seven years,” said Goyo. “I started out as Provincial Election Supervisor, was Regional Election Director, then became the president of the COMELEC Regional Election Directors Organization. It was during my stint as President of CREDO when all the regional directors made a manifesto for me to be appointed as Commissioner.”

After the confirmation, the En Banc designated him as the Steering Committee head. “It was a challenge as I was — literally and figuratively — the youngest Commissioner given the task of overseeing the conduct of the automated elections,” said the 39-year-old Goyo.

“It was an opportunity and challenge that doesn’t come that often (a huge understatement). There were so many challenges that had to be addressed. We worked together with a number of dedicated and qualified individuals who shared a common goal: to change the way people view elections and how elections are conducted in the Phils.”

While the Filipino voting populace was doubtful, even suspicious, of computerization, the Comelec delivered on its promise.

“People, I guess, now fully appreciate the pressure during the weeks leading up to the elections,” he said. “But there was no option other than to make sure we had elections on May 10. And I’m forever grateful to countless individuals who stayed the course and focused on the goal, despite the deluge of disinformation some were spreading.”

Today, his first name “Commissioner” has reverted back to “Attorney.”

“I retired on Feb. 2,” said Goyo. “Now, I’ve been busy with the Terry Larrazabal Bike Festival (TLBF) and Pinoy Bikes/Bike Town Cyclery. I’m also planning for voter education/empowerment which we hope to launch this year with the DepEd and PPCRV.”

A mountain-biker for the past 22 years, Goyo looks like the 5-time Tour de France winner Miguel Indurain. I asked if his myriad of experiences–including founding the TLBF (which runs next week, from March 31 to April 3)–helped him handle the unimaginable pressure.

“I consider myself blessed because of my unique perspectives,” he said. “I belonged to a political family, thus giving me the view candidates have of elections. I used to practice election law, thus providing me with a unique insight. I used to teach (St. Peter’s College and Cebu Doctor’s Univ.), work in a bank, work in the Office of the President of the Philippines, and had the perspective of an event organizer (the TLBF).

“I always say that elections is an event, which needs to be managed properly AND I was a COMELEC field official who was assigned all over… from Region III, Region V, Region VIII and the ARMM. Add to this the support of my family, which is important for anyone who wants to be successful.

“And when I got appointed, there were some people who wondered why, as I was young (the youngest Commissioner on record) and they didn’t really know me. Some speculated I was there to make sure the elections would not push thru (“Why was this young guy appointed and made to head the automation project?).

“But when we did our work, even on Sundays, we knew that failure was never an option. Knowing that you’re doing it for your country, family, wife and specially my son, that was the driving force behind the effort.”

(Read this story on the TLBF 2008.)

Rory Jon Sepulveda pedals off the court

Of all his passions—as lawyer for Gov. Gwen Garcia, consultant of the Provincial Capitol, arch-critic of Rep. Tommy Osmeña—the one activity Atty. Jong Sepulveda enjoys the most is non-argumentative: Riding that pedal-driven, two-wheeled, human-powered vehicle.

“I love everything about cycling,” he told me. “Its history; the cutting edge technology of the bikes; the sights and places the bike takes you along; the pain and hardships of training and racing; the rewards of a relatively good health; and, of course, the camaraderie between, and among, your cyclist-friends.

His biking craze started early, in elementary, when Jong used to bike to school. “Quite a long time ago and we called our bikes then ‘semi-racers’,” he said. “As a form of exercise, I started in 2001 with mountain-biking. Tried road in 2005 and then joined races.” Thus far, he’s participated in dozens, including the Terry Larrazabal Bike Festivals in Ormoc and Subic, and the 3-stagings of Kia Ironlegs in Bohol.

How often does Gov. Gwen’s confidante bike Cebu City’s streets? “Everyday… weather, schedule, wife permitting,” he said. “This translates to at least 3x a week.”

For the past five years, “Jong,” as his buddies call him, has been involved with CC. “We call ourselves Cebu Cycling, a non-formal (unincorporated) association of cycling buddies that hang-out at Willy’s in Busay. The name Cebu Cycling was taken from the Yahoo group forum created by Noel Ting.

With over a hundred CC “roadies” (using road bikes) and over 3,700 members in their website (www.cebucyling.com), the core group includes JV Araneta, Miguel Flores, Jose Ontanillas, Jerome Rodriguez, Cesar Salazar, Frank Gatdula, Geoffrey Lariosa, Francis Lim, John Gayatin, Tony Codina, Art and Tyre Lambo, Raldy Vios, Brett Harrington, Noel Ting and Jong Sepulveda. They’re called the CC VIPs.

“The main objective of CC is to promote cycling – as a sport and lifestyle – here in Cebu,” he said. “As of the recent past, it is only CC that is consistently organizing road bike racing here. For lack, however, of institutional sponsors, our races are mostly small budgeted (but well attended).”

CC-organized races? Plenty. Enumerates Atty. Sepulveda: “Tour ni Frank” (a 2-stage race every Jan. sponsored by Frank Gatdula, who flies in from Stockton, California); “Danao-Lugo-Danao” challenge, held at least twice a year; “Naga-Uling-Toledo” road race; and “Greenhouse Race to the Sky.” CC also supports special events like Nob Clarke’s 10-mile Time Trial races, Al Figer’s “Tour ni Figer” and Andot Rubi’s “Copa de Cebu.”

An upcoming big event is next week. “For the first time,” he said, “we’re joining the Tour of Matabungkay this Oct. 22 to 24 at Matabungkay, Lian, Batangas.” The cyclists include… Team A (Cebu Cycling): JV Araneta, Jose Ontanillas, Mike Flores, Raldy Vios, Francis Lim, Brett Harrington, Tony Codina, Ronnie Adlawan, and myself.  Team B (Team Cebu Cycling – HBC; the team out to win) has Ernie Hortaleza, Jerome Rodriguez, John Gayatin, Philip Sainz, Art Lambo, Tyre Lambo, Ramon Espinosa, Ned Revilla, and Mirko Valentin.

As to his sport’s popularity: “Cycling, specially road cycling, remains a marginal sport here. Hate to admit, but Cebu’s rapid development makes cycling in our terribly busy roads a not-so-interesting proposition. Besides, bike lanes suffer extremely low priority in our cash-starved governments. Be that as it may, due to the increased popularity of triathlon  — we have seen more athletes taking up road cycling lately. As to popularity between two sister disciplines – mtbiking and road cycling – the former has way more adherents. Cebu is more conducive to mtbiking with its abundant mountain roads, trails and paths.”

Finally, he added, “The moment I throw my legs over my bike for a ride or race… I am at peace with myself and the world. Only the homicidal behavior of some drivers can sometimes disturb that peace—but, the more I ride, the more I’ve learned to ignore them.”

Contador wins, Lance exits

Can you believe this? After biking for 21 days ending last Sunday in Paris, after pedaling for 3,642 kilometers, after the winner logged-in a time of 91 hours, 58 minutes and 48 seconds on that Specialized-branded bike, the difference between the champion and runner-up is minuscule: Thirty nine seconds.

Yup. If you read aloud the above paragraph, it will take you 39 seconds. That’s the same length of time that separated the Tour de France champion, Alberto Contador, from the second-placer, Andy Schleck.

Contador finished with a time of 91h 58’ 48”. Schleck ended at 91h 59’ 27”. Imagine a winning-time difference of only 39 seconds! For, in Le Tour, Every Second Counts. (In fact, this winning gap is only the fourth closest in history. The record was the 1989 win by Greg LeMond over Laurent Fignon by eight seconds.)

The Tour de France is considered not only the Wimbledon of Cycling but also one of the toughest events on Earth. What did the 2010 race teach us? Plenty.

First, Alberto Contador is cycling’s Manny Pacquiao. He has won three of the last four TdFs (he was absent in 2008 because his team could not compete) and is only the fifth racer in history to win all three Grand Tours (France, Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a España).

Two, with AC’s win, it reaffirmed the status of Spain as numero uno together with Rafa Nadal, the World Cup-winning football squad, Pau Gasol, and, two nights ago, Fernando Alonso, who won the German Grand Prix. Spain reigns!

Three, we love rivalries. Like Roger vs. Rafa, Lakers vs. Boston (or will be LA vs. Miami next year?), Tiger vs. Phil (we wish!), there’s a new couple: Contador vs. Schleck. The past two years, they finished 1-2. We can’t wait for 2011.

Four, the Tour de Lance is done. Mr. Armstrong punctured a tire on the cobblestones, slipped on the wet roads, and admitted he’s “just not fast enough.” Well, what can you expect from a 38-year-old father of four (baby No. 5 arriving in October). Which brings me back to Lance’s seven TdF wins—and how astonishing that was to accomplish. Imagine, zero mistakes for 21 days… multiplied by seven years… straight!

Finally, with Floyd Landis and Greg LeMond ganging up on their fellow American, let’s hope, at the conclusion of all this, that Lance is telling the truth. For the estimated 28 million cancer patients today, for sports, for the sake of honesty, let’s hope Lance did not inject.

Igi Maximo pedals to the Max

(Photos at team maX1mo)

“Lance Armstrong is my idol,” said Luis Miguel “Igi” Maximo. “Apart from being a strong cyclist, what amazed me was how he fought cancer and won the Tour de France seven consecutive times!”

Igi Maximo is only 15. But when I asked for an assessment of who, between the cyclists, he picks to win the TDF this Sunday, like a seasoned expert, he replied: “I like Alberto Contador. He has proven to be an all-around cyclist and very strong climber. I enjoy it when he attacks big time on the mountain stages. Andy Schleck is also a favorite—but my bet is Contador. After hearing Schleck’s mechanical problem, he may still have a chance but if he doesn’t pull this off on the mountain stages, he’ll have a hard time in the Time Trial because Contador is better.”

Mature. Well-versed. Sports fanatic. Those are words best to describe this third year high schooler at PAREF-Springdale. Igi has lived all his life in a sports-obsessed home. His dad, Maxi, was Cebu’s 2009 Sportsman of the Year and the former Cebu Football Association (CFA) president who is visible in everything-sports: running the 21K, managing the CESAFI football tournament, biking, updating his sports website, PabolFC.blogspot.com.

Like father, like son. Igi is the only son of Maxi and Sheila (they have two daughters, Ina and Ica). And, like the elder Maximo, the younger one has sports revved to the max: excelling in football as a varsity striker before transforming into the junior cycling champion that he is today.

“I started biking last year when I was invited by my classmates to join an outdoor group called Kaabay Boys Club of Sugbu Study Center,” said Igi. “Aside from biking, the club organizes camping, hiking, group studies and conducts talks on moral values and good character. I didn’t have a bike then, so I just borrowed. Later, I asked my dad to buy me one.”

In 12 or so months, Igi won three races in the prestigious Philippine Premier Cycling League (PPCL)—in Manila, Laguna and Clark. For someone so new to cycling, this is Lance-like. Apart from the PPCL, which runs until December, Igi added, “I also plan to join the local races… but the one I like to join again is the US Junior Cycling events. I had the opportunity to be in the US last summer and, while joining, not only had fun but learned a lot about road racing. I was nervous & excited because I was the only entry from the Phils. The junior cyclists were so good and fast. I want to go back and see if I can now keep up with them. I hope the Fil-Am community who partly sponsored me will invite me again next summer.”

Why this strenuous and dangerous sport? “Cycling teaches me a lot,” he said. “One, how to balance my academics and sports. Two, how to never give up… to bounce back from any loss, fighting stronger the next time. Three, in cycling or life, it’s not always an easy path; you will encounter challenges and it’s up to you how much you want to improve. Your performance will depend on your effort (I learned this from my dad.)”

Despite his youthfulness, Igi has started to compete in the Men’s Open (Elite) category, recently joining the mountain-bike ITT race and placing fourth. When I asked Igi how he’s become a success given his young age, his reply was direct: I simply have the full support of my parents. Enough said!

Maxi with Pacman, John P. and Atty. Jingo Quijano

To which his dad, Maxi, sent a separate email reply: “John, I asked Igi why he answered it that way. He said he just wants to highlight one important aspect – the parents’ support to a young athlete. I find him to be humble kid. He is not the type that trumpets his victories. Even in school, he does not tell his classmates & teachers that he won. He just keeps it to himself. They only find it out when they read it in the papers. This is partly why his fellow students and teachers are at ease with him: undefeated in the Student Council elections (Gr.7-class rep, 1st yr-Treas., 2nd yr-Sec., 3rd yr-VP) and 6-time Springdale Athlete of the Year.”

Biking Cebu and Touring France

I was born in Iloilo, studied elementary in Bacolod at La Salle, resided in Quezon City for several months, experienced vacation memories in Istanbul, San Francisco, Barcelona and Paris—but when I’m asked what I love most about this city of Cebu, I never fail to reply with one sporty answer: Mountain-biking.

No experience I relish more than pedaling, opening one’s eyes to green trees to the left and harrowing 45-foot cliffs to the right, trekking dirt roads, ascending hills then climbing mountains then descending both at 45-kph. This is Cebu, I remind myself. This is life. This is nature that God has gifted us. This is sweat trickling down my cheeks, muscles crying in pain. Yes, pedaling upwards towards the earth’s blue ceiling hurts—but don’t most experiences first hurt before we smile?

Biking? Ahhh, I love it. And though it’s not as widespread as Dr. Sander Ugalino’s sport or Bernard Palermo’s exercise or Joel Garganera’s passion (last Sunday, Joel finished his 8th marathon in 16 months!)—this Running Fever that has inflicted thousands—biking is popular. If you wake up early on weekends and drive up to Busay, you’ll see dozens of motorists using bikes without motors. Or, rather, the motors are their bodies—spewing energy to rotate pedals, propelling those thin tires skyward.

Which brings me to the TdF. No activity is more damaging to a human body than this killer. But before explaining the gory torture, first, the beautiful picture. Here’s how I described, with some revision, the race 24 months ago…

Picturesque mountain ranges of France are on exhibit. Green, lush hills sprinkle the landscape. Gray, paved roads shine. Blue, towering skies glow. Red-bricked homes glisten. And, weaving a spiral formation through turns that look like corkscrews and roadways that appear like pasta coils, cyclists parade in pink, white, orange, purple, and…

Yellow. Tour de France. Isn’t yellow the most sought-after color among the rainbow of colors in Le Tour? Absolutely. Because the yellow jersey is worn by only one man—the leader of the band; the fastest among the 190 or so cyclists who pedal in this race running from July 3 to 25.

Is “Le Tour,” founded in 1903, the most physically-demanding of all sports? To me, it’s like showing you a photo of David Diaz at the end of that 9th round stoppage, all bloodied and brain-weary, then asking you, “Is boxing painful?”

Of course. Of course the TDF is the most grueling of all sports courses. Including boxing. Think about it. In Le Tour, you scurry through nine flat stages. You point to the clouds on six unbearable mountaintops. There are 52 kms. of individual time trials when, facing wind, dust, rain or sun, you’re alone. In total, you pedal 3,642 kms. Every single day of cycling. For 23 days. With only two rest days in-between.

Manny Pacquiao? Boxing? Grueling? Don’t tell that to Lance Armstrong. Without question the greatest ever, LA has won seven Tours de France. Year after year, from 1999 to 2005, at the end of the world’s biggest cycling party, he finished in Paris and climbed the podium wearing one bright sunflower color.

The above words I wrote in 2008 are the same ones I’d write to describe the 2010 edition. Only, this year’s is more dangerous. Alberto Contador was wounded on a slippery downhill, Frank Schleck quit, Armstrong punctured a tire traversing cobblestones, Vande Velde retired—and it’s only been five days!

Questions abound this year. Can a 38-year-old body (Lance) beat someone who’s 27 (Contador)? Drugs? Did Lance “Just do it?” What will happen up the Pyrenees? Whose team is strongest? Can Astana, the weakling, lead it’s two-time champ to victory, beating Radio Shack?

Sadly, unlike the World Cup coverage, we have no “live” Tour de France showing from SkyCable. Good thing there’s internet streaming.

I can’t wait. AC or Lance? I’m cycling up Busay.

Re-Cycled: Lance Armstrong was on drugs

Alongside Michael Jordan, the sportsman I admire most wears yellow. I own his Nike watch. Several Armstrong books adorn my mini-library. A pair of sunglasses with his signature I’ve purchased. That yellow band with the “LIVESTRONG” name? I’ve collected those long before Noynoy Aquino’s crusade.

Lance’s story — a 22-year-old champion stricken by testicular cancer that had metastasized to his lungs and brain only to defeat the Big C bastard and climb back the saddle to pedal and win seven Tour de France crowns — is better than Hollywood. It’s true. Quite possibly, it is the most powerful story in all of sports. Ever.

That’s why, three days ago, when Floyd Landis, the former teammate of Armstrong, emerged with the story that implicated Lance as a drug cheat… this was explosive.

Not that these drug allegations are new. Since Lance won his first LeTour in 1999, drug issues have hounded his yellow jersey like a black shadow. Hundreds of “Lance Is A Cheat” exposes have, like Robin Hood’s arrow, targeted him in the past. But, let’s remember: not once has Mr. Armstrong — the most drug-tested athlete on earth — tested positive. Ever.

Still, this revelation by Landis is damaging. For three years starting 2002, Floyd with Lance was like Scottie Pippen to Michael Jordan. He was, to borrow a cliche, Lance’s “right hand man.” They were not only buddies, they were US Postal Service team partners. Floyd would pedal ferociously up the Pyrenees mountains while Lance rode behind. Then, like a dutiful servant, Floyd would give way as The Yellow Master overtook and zoomed to the finish line first. Floyd was Robin. Batman was Lance.

What did Landis reveal 72 hours ago? In emails that he circulated and a phone call to an ESPN writer, he announced: 1) That he was a drug cheat, 2) that Lance was the same and, worse, taught him and others to use testosterone patches, blood transfusions and EPO, 3) that their teammates did the same, and 4) that officials and governing bodies were paid to quiet the story.

Given Landis’ stardom status — he won the ’06 TdF — this revelation was tantamount to the Watergate scandal that evicted U.S. Pres. Richard Nixon. This was very, very, very explosive.

Well, yes… and no. For here’s the problem: While the message may be explosive, the messenger is “damaged goods.” Landis is one man whose honesty is loaded with… dishonesty. Consider these facts: After lab tests revealed that Floyd took drugs during his 2006 victory in France, he did what any dishonest man often does: deny, deny, deny. He wrote a book, “Positively False: The Real Story Of How I Won The Tour.” He launched a fund-raising campaign that collected $1 million to pay for his lawyers. He appeared on Larry King Live and, with a serious face that made me and millions of others believe him, said “I’m honest.” Well, didn’t Ferdinand Marcos say the same?

“If there was one word I could walk away with that sums this all up its ‘Credibility,'” said Armstrong, hours after the news surfaced. “Floyd lost his credibility a long time ago. You’ve got someone who’s been under oath with a completely different version, someone who wrote a book with a completely different version… He has said he has no proof. It’s his word versus ours … and we like our word.”

Lance has a point. But here’s the biggest problem of them all: We don’t know whom to trust. Ben Johnson said he never did drugs. He did. Marion Jones cried oceans and said she never injected. She did. Roger Clemens never took steroids. He did. Landis said he never took EPO. He did.

Lance Armstrong? Like many of you, I hope — for mankind’s sake — that he is honest. I hope he did not inject. I hope he is yellow clean. Because if he’s not, then who, in this universe, can we trust?

Which brings me to the advocacy of the Catholic community that I belong to — the Brotherhood of Christian Businessmen and Professionals (BCBP) — which sums this story best:

Chris Aldeguer comments on Lance vs. AC

Chris Aldeguer

The 96th Tour de France has ended—but the word war just started. No sooner had Alberto Contador arrived in Spain when he unleashed a torrent of insults, saying, “My relationship with Armstrong is nil… I’ve never had a great admiration for him and I never will!”

Ouch. That’s distasteful. And, to a seven-time TDF winner, upsetting and embarrassing. But never one to surrender a fight, Lance responded: “Hey pistolero, there is no ‘I’ in ‘team.’ What did I say in March? Lots to learn. Restated.” Continue reading Chris Aldeguer comments on Lance vs. AC

Alberto Contador is the new Lance Armstrong

The Tour de France is our planet’s most punishing and excruciating sporting event. It spans 23 days—that’s 21 marathons of pedaling and only two days of rest in-between—covering a total distance of 3,445 kms. From the start in Monaco, it traverses through seven mountain stages, six countries that include Spain, Andorra, Italy, Monaco, Switzerland and (of course!) France, and will finish today, the 26th of July, along the Champs-Elysees in Paris.

I’ve been to the Champs-Elysees. The year was 2001 when my wife Jasmin’s father, Jack Villarosa Mendez, brought our whole family on a European sojourn. That Parisian street, one of the world’s most prominent, I recall as a beauty. And, today, as the 170 or so cyclists joining the TDF will pass through that sight, one man will find the Champs-Elysees with the utmost beauty: Alberto Contador.

Continue reading Alberto Contador is the new Lance Armstrong

Tom Watson and Lance Armstrong

Thomas Sturges Watson is a winner of eight Major championships in golf. Lance Edward Armstrong has won the Tour de France a record seven times. Mr. Watson and Mr. Armstrong, in the vast universe called Sports, are two of the most venerated and hallowed names. Together, they are also two of the oldest competitors in their fields of golf and cycling.

Tom Watson, barely a month shy of his 60th birthday, was one of the golfing greats in the 1970s and 1980s. Lance Armstrong, born on September 18, 1971—which makes him 38 years old in six weeks’ time—dominated cycling from 1999 to 2005. Continue reading Tom Watson and Lance Armstrong

Will Armstrong win an 8th Tour de Lance?

Tracing back history, we will find that the oldest man to have won the most famous pedaling race on earth is Firmin Lambot. In 1922, the Belgian was 36 years old. Studying today’s 96th staging of “Le Tour,” we see 180 cyclists joining. The oldest competitor is a 40-year-old Spaniard named Inigo Cuesta. The second oldest?

Lance Armstrong, who turns 38 this September. In a sport where youthfulness and freshness of legs are necessary to climb the Pyrenees and brave Mt. Ventoux and sprint through Individual Time Trials, Mr. Armstrong is a grandfather. He’s an elderly, a senior, an age-old veteran.

Consider Alberto Contador, the man tipped by pollsters to win this season. Contador is only 26. That makes him 11 Julys younger—and fresher and, yes, possibly stronger and more vigorous—than the elderly. But Lance Armstrong is Mr. Strong Arm. Continue reading Will Armstrong win an 8th Tour de Lance?

Le Tour

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Of the tens of thousands of sporting events held worldwide each year, for me the most grueling and painful is the Tour de France. Having pedaled the heights of Busay on dozens of occasions, I can’t imagine how strenuous it is biking for 21 straight days (with only two days-off in between) the total mileage of 3,445 kms.

This Saturday, while the sporting eyes will focus on Wimbledon, the 96th staging of “Le Tour” starts. What’s most intriguing this season are two names who happen to be members of the same team: Alberto Contador and Lance Armstrong. Continue reading Le Tour

This wild, fanatical ride called the MTB

Like you, dear readers, I’ve ridden a jeepney, a boat, a tricycle, an airplane, a car, the MRT, a bus, a Yamaha motorcycle, the subway train, a trisikad and, yes, on one occasion, Y101’s helicopter during the Sinulog. But, among all, what is the means of transportation that I savor the most riding?

mountain_bike

(From www.artsbycraft.com)

A bike. Why? Because, in my brain’s definition, these words are inscribed: Want adventure? Go biking. Continue reading This wild, fanatical ride called the MTB

Spinning MTB wheels, Goyo propels the TLBF

This time last year, I published this story in Sun.Star Cebu. Since the ’09 TLBF will be from March 30 to April 5, here’s my experience from a few years ago…

Atty. Gregorio “Goyo” Larrazabal is to RP mountain-biking what Dr. Potenciano “Yong” Larrazabal III is to Cebu running. Each year, Goyo organizes one of the biggest mountain-biking (MTB) events in the country: the Terry Larrazabal Bike Fest (TLBF).

This photo and all below from www.tlbf.org

Nearly four years ago when I often climbed Busay on two wheels and skidded through our Brgy. Guba dirt roads on an MTB, I joined the 3rd TLBF in Ormoc City, Leyte. Together with Jaime Gallego (who has since moved to Canada) and many others from Cebu—Boying Rodriguez, Joey Ontanillas, Dr. JV Araneta, Mike Flores, Atty. Jong Sepulveda, Joel Concepcion, JoMark Rodriguez, Chokoy Durano, Niño and Buddy Duterte (to name a few)—we navigated through hectares of Ormoc plantations, joined the X-Country MTB race and, after, celebrated by gorging on their sweet pineapples. Continue reading Spinning MTB wheels, Goyo propels the TLBF