Sports Eye

Searching for new cycling champions
(Second of two series)

By Jesus A. Garcia Jr.

YEAR 2015 was the last time a Pangasinan cyclist took center stage when Umingan son Santy Barnachea won the annual 15-day Ronda Pilipinas. He’s the only Filipino professional pedal-pusher to win four multi-stage bikathons breaking my three triumphs as well as the legend Manuel Reynante’s achievements. Since that time, no Pangasinense finished even in top three anymore in the Ronda and the yearly UCI sanctioned four-day Le Tour de Filipinas.

And because of this lackluster performance of our cyclists, cycling fans keep asking me why our local bets are no longer the best like they used to. I told them that based on my observations, our locals’ skills are not deteriorating but the cyclists of our neighboring places like Nueva Ecija, Tarlac and Manila are simply doing better, stepping up in their training while our boys have not moved on from the usual way of training. I pointed out that most of the town officials of Nueva Ecija and Tarlac are very supportive of their cyclists’ endeavors. They hold bicycle road races during their town fiestas, so unlike our officials. I believe this is one reason why their local riders are beating our boys.

In my last column, I wrote that presently, we only have nine prominent riders in the province that could give a good fight in this year’s Ronda and the Le Tour. Nine is too few for this cycling-crazy province, considered by scribes then as the hotbed of Philippine cycling.

This is the reason why our sports-minded Gov. Amado ‘Pogi” Espino, III wants to restore the enthusiasm for competitive cycling in the province. He told me to start with the young ones (18 below). This is exactly what the Europeans, Australians, Americans, Chinese, Japanese, South Koreans have been doing for decades and this policy has borne fruits for them by consistently winning medals in the Olympics and World Championships. So realistically, we are behind by at least two decades.

With Gov. Pogi seriously aiming to bring back the glory that we used to enjoy, by dominating the sport that brought national countless accolades in amateur and in professional races, we can look forward to better years.

I can still remember what basketball icon Michael Jordan once said: “Greatness isn’t granted but gained – with each triumph earned through the hard work.” I agree. He keeps on encouraging and motivating the young athletes to work hard and persevere in their goal, striving for excellence in their chosen field of sports. That’s what he did in basketball and the rest is history.

I surmise this is what’s happening to 16 year-old Dagupeπo rider Efren Reyes. The youthful Reyes placed fifth in the star-studded 4th San Fabian Mayor Agbayani Cycling Challenge held last January 14 won by Tour veteran and international rider Joshua Cariπo of Mangaldan.

According to Engr. Rodolfo “Boy” Dion, he trained and financially supported Reyes at age nine upon seeing his potential during some of the races organized and sponsored by Metro Dagupan City Cycling Club, Inc.  I guess a cycling star is born in the province. Let’s wait and see.

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QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “Therefore thus says the Lord God: Because you have forgotten Me and cast Me behind your back, therefore you shall bear the penalty of your lewdness and your harlotry.” EZEKIEL 23: 35

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