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.”

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.

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.

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.

Le Tour


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.

Categorized as Cycling