Against all odds

By Jesus A. Garcia Jr.


FOUR towns in Eastern Pangasinan conducted cycling road races last February and this month.

The first was staged in Umingan, the home of the only four-time national Tour champion of the Philippines Santy Barnachea, my godson. It was followed in Urdaneta City, then by the well-known place Asingan, noted as the town of our former president Fidel V. Ramos and the 2012 Le Tour de Filipinas winner Baler Ravina. The fourth was in Binalonan, birthplace of 1975 Tour of Luzon titlist the diminutive Samson Etrata (now in the U.S.) and the late 1985 Marlboro Tour king PMSGT. Pepito Calip.

On the western side of the province, one was held in Alaminos City.  And in Sual town, producer of two Tour champions, the brothers Modesto and Romeo Bonzo. The town already conducted two cycling road races, also in the last two months. But according to my reliable source, the former Tour veteran Wencelmo Baguio, unlike the eastern side where open races were done, the two bikefests were exclusively for western Pangasinan cyclists.  (Baguio was my able teammate when I won the fabled 1973 Tour of Luzon. He won the 10th and the last stage of the that multi-stage bikathon. He who was born in Urdaneta but married in Sual, was chosen by the organizers as the race adviser). The races were sponsored by well-known cycling organizers in the eastern area. Of course, they observed the health and safety protocols.

The central Pangasinan bikers were envious and asked me if a bikefest can also be staged in their area since biking or cycling is allowed in a Modified General Community Quarantine (MGCQ) area, while also strictly observing the health and safety protocols mandated by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF). They said their group of almost 30 cyclists had been training and riding together as a group and they were not stopped from riding together in a bunch at anytime.  I guess it’s OK because I never heard of any active cyclist that was infected by COVID-19 because of biking with others.

So, I did not have to think twice about their suggestion and I immediately discussed it with Fourth District Board Member Liberato “Riby” Villegas, himself a sports-minded person like our good Gov. Amado “Pogi” I. Espino, lll, about a possible bikefest even just for fun, with just medals at stake. I suggested the activity as his service to his constituents, as requested. Gratefully, the mountain biker and tennis player BM Villegas quickly decided on a ‘fun ride’ ride event with me as the race director (assisted by my first and only cycling child Jazy) for the staging of the 40-kilometer two-category San Fabian mountain bikefest.

The “fun ride” started from his place in barangay Angio and ended at the majestic “Bikers’ Den” in Barangay Inmalog in the same town. It was a successful event in spite of the incidents that saw two bikers from among the 60 participants who suffered spills with very minor injuries. But that’s common. I experienced those, too, during my heydays. Of course, health and safety protocols were observed throughout. What was planned as “fun ride” actually turned into cycling race, and everyone raced ‘against all odds.’ BM Villegas awarded the medals and some incentives for the winners and survivors. Mabuhay ka, BM Riby.

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QUOTE OF THE WEEK: But the Lord is the true God; He is the living God and everlasting King. At His wrath the earth will tremble, and the nations will not be able to endure His indignation. JEREMIAH 10: 10

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