Sports Eye

“There’s always first time in life”

By Jesus A. Garcia, Jr.

AS I write this piece, our country’s third strongest typhoon (after Quinta and Rolly) named Ulysses is devastating our province with its strong gusty winds. I’m rushing this piece (November 12) to beat the deadline fearing that a power outage might occur anytime, like what happened before. Thank God, it did not happen, this time.

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The third largest, longest, richest, strenuous and most prestigious bicycle race in the world (after Tour de France and Giro d’ Italia) called “Vuelta a España” (Tour of Spain) is on its 75th season, and it started last October 20 and ended on November 8 sans glitches. It was won by defending champion Primoz Roglic. He succeeded in defending his throne against 2019 Giro d’ Italia winner Richard Carapaz of Ecuador by just 24 seconds. Originally scheduled last August 14 to September 6 with 21 stages like TdF and Giro, it was abruptly postponed and reduced to 18 days, obviously because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

And believe it or not, the three most prestigious multi-stage bicycle races in the world were all won by just less than a minute in overall margin. The first to accomplish the unique fate this year was the little-known and less-skilled 22-year-old Tadej Pogacar of Slovenia who shocked the world’s cycling buffs by dislodging his compatriot, the more experienced 2019 Vuelta winner Roglic during the short but crucial 36.2 kilometers individual-time-trial 20th stage, and hanged on to the lead up to the last day of the bikefest to win the 109th edition of the world’s number one multi-stage bicycle road skirmishes by just 59 seconds.

What Pogacar did in the TdF was similarly done by British rider Tao Geoghegan Hart in the Giro this year. Overall leader Jai Hindley of Australia led by dint of a fraction of seconds after the 20th stage (first time in the history of Giro since its birth in 1909) and was dislodged by Hart in the 21st and last stage, a 15.7 kilometers race-against-the-clock event, to lose by just 39 seconds overall.

What happened to TdF and Giro this year, almost happened in Vuelta this year with the two world well-known road racers: the defending titlist Roglic and last year’s Giro winner Carapaz of Ecuador seesawing with each other for the overall classification lead and alternately wore the red jersey (symbolic of overall leadership). Yes, Roglic got the better legs in the first five days, but the Latino rider Carapaz seized the front in the sixth and defended his lead up to the 9th lap. Surprising or not, Roglic grabbed the red jersey from the 10th to 11th leg but the astonishing Ecuadorian Carapaz retook the front due to his exceptional mountain climbing capability in the 16th stage to lead by only few seconds over Roglic. Then Roglic retook the lead in the 16th by 35 seconds and although defeated by Carapaz in the mountainous 18th and last stage by nine seconds excluding time bonus, Roglic successfully defended his Vuelta throne to win by just 24 ticks.

This was the first time in the history of the world’s three cycling ‘grand tours’ with the three champions winning their respective crowns by just less than a minute. Yes, “there’s always first time in life,” as the saying goes. No doubt about that. And I do believe that it will take decades again to duplicate the feat this year in the three world’s annual biggest Tours.

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QUOTE OF THE WEEK: So Jesus said to them, “Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move and nothing will be impossible for you. MATTHEW 17: 20

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