Sports Eye

Cycling in Mangatarem

By Jesus A. Garcia Jr.

PERHAPS many may not know that Mangatarem is one of the most cycling fanatic towns of the province, then and until now. In fact, media colleague and PUNCH columnist Al S. Mnedoza confessed to this writer years ago that cycling was one of his favorite sports besidesVgolf and boxing. He said he used to bike from his hometown Mangatarem to Dagupan City just to watch an FPJ movie . He just stopped the sport to pursue his tertiary education. He’s now a successful journalist.    

Unfortunately, despite the popularity of the two-wheeled event among them, it’s sad to note that the town has not been able, so far, to produce a prominent cyclist to join national multi-stage cycling races like the Tour of Luzon, Marlboro Tour, Le Tour de Filipinas, Ronda Pilipinas, etc.

Our cycling patron, the late Dr. Raymund Velasquez, never failed to organize and direct a criterium race conducted at the heart of the town during fiestas. In fact, the annual event was also perennially participated in by our Philippine national team members headed by Bugallon-pride the late Edgardo Pagarigan and Marlboro Tour standouts spearheaded by San Manuel’s greatest cyclist, the late Jacinto Sicam and Bautista town stalwart 1981 Marlboro Tour first runner-up the late Fermin Zabala. Unfortunately, the annual fiesta event was discontinued for few years when Dr. Velasquez suffered a motorcycle road accident became bed ridden, and eventually passed away several years ago.  

Edgar Ayento, owner of bicycle store and shop in the town, took over with his friends headed by Edmonton, Canada-based Rod Mejia . They eventually formed a cycling group called “Mangatarem Mountain Bikers Association,” or better known as “Mamba.” The group revived the annual event but mostly mountain bike racings. With the Fil-Canadian and former amateur cyclist Mejia now in town again to attend his birthplace’s town fiesta, they organized anew a bikefest for the town fiesta., but with a very different format this year. It will be billed this time as “First Mangatarem Bikefest 2019.”

According to Mejia and Ayento whom I visited in Mangatarem last January 16, a three-day mountain bike and road race will be held on January 22 – 24 but exclusively for the more than 50 members. Mejia said the events were customized for 24 year-old-and-below mountain bike and road racers.

“We will do this annually in honor of our Mangatarem cycling godfather Dr. Velasquez,” said Mejia. “Our other objective is to entice the young and the old ones to be involved in sports especially cycling, and in drugs” he added.

According to the two, the mountain bike race will traverse the Mangatarem mountains while the two road races will be an individual and team events starting and ending in Mangatarem across the municipal hall passing thru Aguilar, Bugallon, Lingayen (Baay junction), Labrador via Domalandan, back to Bugallon via Magtaking, Aguilar and Mangatarem.

Yes, cash prizes, trophies and medals are at stake. See you there.

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My sincere and heartfelt sympathy to the family of former Congressman and Dagupan City Mayor Benjamin S. Lim for losing their loved one. BSL, a sports lover like the late Mayor Al Fernandez, once held a bicycle criterium race in downtown Dagupan in 2005 which I directed, won by San Carlean Enrique Domingo. May his soul rest in peace.

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QUOTE OF THE WEEK: And Jesus Christ said, “But I say to you who hear: love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, Bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you.” LUKE 6: 27-28


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