Sports Eye

“There’s always the first time”

By Jesus A. Garcia, Jr.

“THERE’S always the first time,” a maxim that nobody dares contradict because it’s true. And that’s what happened last Sunday (July 28) in the sporting world and became the talk of the town among cycling followers when a young rider from a third world country Colombia in South America named Egan Bernal unexpectedly won the fabled Tour de France. Yes, the little-known fellow from the capital city of Bogota stunned the cycling world especially his countrymates, North and South Americans, this writer, and the Europeans who’ve been dominating the 21-day bikathon annually. Yes, he is the first Hispanic cyclist from South America to achieve this feat and the third youngest ever (22 years and six months of age) to win the TdF considered the toughest, longest, richest, oldest and the most prestigious bicycle race in the world.

Admittedly, the Colombian national champion Bernal was not familiar until he rose to prominence by winning some big races in Europe, U.S.A. and in Asia like the 2017 Tour de Langkawi in Malaysia placing 7th overall; France amateur multi-stage bicycle race called “Tour de l’Avenir” also in 2017, the eight-day Paris-Nice and Tour de Suisse, but his biggest wins before this year’s TdF w the 2018 Tour of California as champion, and the 2019 Volta a Catalunya in Spain placing third generally, where majority of the big guns in world cycling participated. Representing the British based-INEOS team in this year’s TdF, his initial duty was to be a domestique player of his team to support former champion Chris Froome and defending champion Geraint Thomas. But “expect the unexpected”, as the saying goes, it turned to be the other way around. With some luck, Bernal landing third overall after the 18th of the 21 stages and escaped from the peloton on the stiff climb of the 19th stage despite the big rains and strong wind, and led the stage by 2:15 minutes over overall leader Frenchman Julian Alaphilippe. Reaching the top of the Col de I’Iseran, the TdF race director general stopped the rain-soaked stage due to landslides and hailstorm 20 kilometers from the finish line to avoid an imminent multiple crashes among the contestants. That greatly benefited the five-foot-nine Bernal and seized the yellow jersey to become the new race leader. The 20th stage was also a mountain stage and Bernal proved to his rivals and critics that he’s the new kid in town to be reckoned with by sticking with the big guns in the overall. The 21st and final stage was a ceremonial ride to Champs Ellysee in Paris. Bernal not only won the championship but also copped the Best Young Rider award of TdF. Defending champion Thomas landed second overall.

In the national scene, the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) leadership wrangle was finally over and for the first time in the history of POC. a top honcho of national cycling body called PhilCycling was elected POC president. Cavite congressman Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino defeated Philippine Amateur Track and Field Association (PATAFA) head Philip Juico, 24-20, and handball czar Steve Hontiveros beat Robert Aventajado of taekwondo for the chairmanship. Now that the squabble is finish, our sports leaders and national athletes should move on sans distractions to avoid any international embarrassment when our country hosts the coming 30th SEA Games on November 30-December 11.

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QUOTE OF THE WEEK: I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. ll TIMOTHY 4: 7

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