Flying high

Scary! That’s the best word to describe what my eyes witnessed last Sunday. Treacherous. Risky. Hazardous. Those are three more adjectives. I’m talking about one sport that had thousands of people watching last weekend.

Motocross racing. Two afternoons ago, on a date with my daughter Jana, we trekked to the South Road Properties (SRP) to watch daredevils fly. Yes, they flew. Five, 10, 15 — maybe 20 feet on air. No, they weren’t birds. No, they didn’t have wings. All they had was a super two-wheeler called a motocross that elevated on air. Daredevils. Yes, that’s another aptly-worded description. These men have no fear. They’re gutsy and bold. Daring.

I had long wanted to watch motocross racing. It wasn’t until last weekend that I finally did.

Bill Velasco, one of this nation’s top sports media personalities, sent me a text message on Saturday wanting to meet. I promised to visit him at the SRP.

Last Sunday, inside the organizer’s tent fronting dozens of mounds, we watched. The pros were competing. On a nearly-one-kilometer track that circles and winds, dozens of athletes revved their engines and pushed the machines to their limits. They started in unison but, seconds after, one would overtake another. Dirt gushed from the dry sand. Often on slippery ground, the dust would belch a fiery steam.

The motorbikes would scream loud voices. Pushed to the limit on a straight path, upon reaching a hill, the bikers would release themselves from their seats and, like Michael Jordan wearing helmet, they’d fly.

In front of us were two Chocolate Hills. After accelerating on a turn, they’d skyrocket to drift over these two heaps of soil.

Acrobats. That’s what these lionhearted professionals do. Some would, while sailing on the air, wave their right hand to the crowd. Others would captivate the audience by twisting their handlebars and landing on a sideways posture.

This isn’t just sport. It’s entertainment. It’s the thrill of watching men do crazy moves that, to us ordinary motorists, would maim or disfigure.

“Safety is number one,” said Bill Velasco, who helped operate the whole event. “Before the start of each race, the crew would line-up and, foot by foot, inspect every portion of the track for debris that shouldn’t be there.”

Thanks to this attention to safety detail, few incidents — and nothing major — have occurred the past 12 months.

“Eleven races. Ten different locations. Hundreds of riders. Tons of dirt. Tens of millions of pesos. Crowds ranging from 18,000 to over 42,000. This has been the story of motocross’s renaissance. And it all returned to where it started…” – Those were the words of Mr. Velasco in his Phil. Star column yesterday.

After starting the Kopiko Astig 3-in-One Supercross series in Cebu City last January, it was back to the SRP last weekend. In between the two Cebu races, there were nine others all over the Visayas and Mindanao.

Each city is different. The track and obstacles are different. The conditions — “very rainy for two straight weeks in Cagayan de Oro” and “very hot and dusty in Bacolod” — are different. Our Cebu track was built by Cebu’s legendary Adlawan family, led by Jon Jon.

What doesn’t change is this: The Thrill. The Scare. The engines that soar. The engines that roar. The racers who slide, descend, ascend and pilot each of the bike’s two wheels as if they were his own legs.

How much does each bike cost? “One million pesos,” Bill replied. Yup. These are not your ordinary Yamahas. These are souped-up and modified super machines whose goal is to achieve a combination of top velocity and agility.

The most fun part? The little kids. No taller than a few feet tall, the “Pee Wee” division is for kids not satisfied with kiddie games like the swing and the slide. They’d rather slide and swing on the dirt track, armed with padded gear and helmets.

Good thing, after a few circles, the children crossed the finish safely. It brought smiles to the parents — the perfect Christmas gift.

To all… Merry Christmas!

Categorized as Racing
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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