Sports Eye

He came, he saw, he conquered

By Jesus A. Garcia Jr.

OUR country’s first (of two) annual multi-stage cycling road races called “Ronda Pilipinas” was conducted this year in five days, unlike the previous nine years which was run in ten days. It started this time in Iloilo City on February 8 and ended on February 12 in Pandan, Antique.

The bikefest was participated in by 90 accredited contestants, 42 from the Philippines and 48 from different nationalities like Spain, Japan, Korea, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and Cambodia, to name some.

For the first time, the bikathon was sanctioned by the world governing cycling body UCI (Union Cycliste Internationale), and also for the first time it was won by a European rider, a Madrid, Spain-born Francisco Perez Mancebo.  

Luckily, despite the presence of star cyclists in the bikathon, three of our local sons landed in the top ten overall led by defending champion Ronald Oranza of Villasis who finished second, and the surging Sto. Tomas native Dominic Perez who landed third, 3:20 and 3:23 adrift Mancebo, respectively. Laoac stalwart Mark Julius Bordeos checked in eighth. Indeed, if not for the participation of Mancebo who came here for the first time to compete and collected some points for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Oranza would have been the winner again. Anyway, Oranza’s effort was worthy of note, being the best of all Asian participants.

Mancebo, 42, is well-known in the cycling world as a mountain climber and individual time-trial specialist. He won the longest initial 197-kilometer stage, orchestrating a solo finish with Oranza and Perez coming in second and third 3:52 minutes behind, respectively. Supported by his five Japanese teammates of Matrix Powertag Japan squad, Mancebo successfully floated with the main pack in the last four stages despite the daily charge by the big guns led by Pangasinan boys Oranza, Perez, Bordeos and the Cariño brothers Joshua and Daniel of Mangaldan and two-time Ronda champ Jan Paul Morales of Manila. After the last stage with Oranza happy with his first runner-up finish, praised the aging but still strong and hard to beat Mancebo.

“We still have a long way to hurdle and more training to be at par with him,” said Oranza. “The race was a good measurement for us, Filipino riders,” he added.

I have to agree with him. Admittedly, Mancebo never won a podium finish in the Tour de France, and the Giro d’Italia (Tour of Italy) and he savored a podium finish in his professional career only once by placing third in the 2005 Vuelta a España (Tour of Spain). His best finish in the TdF was fourth in 2005 aside finishing ninth in 2000, seventh in 2002, tenth in 2003, and sixth in 2004. He finished a dismal 20th place in 2000 Giro. TdF, Giro and Vuelta are being run in 21 days annually and considered by UCI as the longest, toughest, richest, oldest and the most prestigious bicycle road races in the world.

“Veni, vidi, vici,” a Latin famous quote by Roman Emperor Julius Caesar after conquering Turkey in 47 BC. “I came, I saw, I conquered” is the English translation and that’s what could have been on the mind of Mancebo before flying back to Japan with his team.

Yes, the Spaniards conquered us and lived here for 376 years, but the Spanish hombre Mancebo conquered us for five days in the field of sports this time.

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QUOTE OF THE WEEK: Take away from Me the noise of your songs, for I will not hear the melody of your stringed instruments. But let justice run down like water, and righteousness like a mighty stream. AMOS 5: 23-24

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