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.

John Pages

By John Pages

I've been a sports columnist since 1994. First, in The Freeman newspaper under "Tennis Is My Game." Then, starting in 2003, with Sun.Star Cebu under the name "Match Point." Happy reading!

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