The pioneer in mountain biking tours not just in Cebu but the entire Philippines, Bugoy Bikers, recently held their first Cross-Country MTB challenge last Sunday. It took me a while to recover and share my story. If you’ve seen the route and elevation, you’ll have an idea as to what I’m talking about. Bugoy Bikers have been around for quite some time, even before I started riding, they’re presence is already visible in promoting a different Cebu and other parts of the country through mountain biking. This is also the first time they’ve organized a cross country race. A total of 160 bikers registered for last Sunday’s race and it even attracted international participants. I’m not so sure if they allowed on site registration though. Lucky for me, I had the chance to experience it in this lifetime. I’ll share some highlights of my race experience.
I’ve made a short list as to why the 1st Bugoy Bikers Mountain Bike Challenge is awesome:
1. The entire race route in itself.
It’s a total sufferfest but this is what mountain bikers want, it’s what we are looking for. We don’t want it easy. The starting line is at Pulangbato Gym, climbing all the way up to Guba, followed by the technical downhill in Dita, climbing up the off beaten road in Baugo, the heartless climb in Budlaan, crossing to Mt. View for Babag, and then slowly climbing our way up to the finish line at Tops Skyline Garden. It may just be all words to you but the places mentioned are not all flatland or pedal friendly. I’m a bit familiar with the routes but I’ve never tried connecting them all together on a single ride. For me, the climb to Guba was a breeze and I very much enjoyed descending in Dita. I was on a roll! You can’t celebrate too soon because there’s another climb in Baugo. This is the part where I felt like I was being dragged to hell. As if climbing Baugo wasn’t enough, there’s more uphill climb in Budlaan. It was really a tough race with no sympathy from the sun. Imagine an endless climb that gets steeper in every turn with the temperature hitting at 33 °C and ZERO chance of rain. It hurts so good. Laspagay, FTW!
2. Environment Friendly
We all know riding your bike reduces your carbon footprint. It would be a bit ironic if people ride their bikes yet contribute trash to Mother Earth by throwing away gels or plastics while on the trail. I never leave any trash behind, I either keep it on my jersey pocket or hydration pack. I recommend the race organizer, Jens Funk, for encouraging riders to throw their energy bar wrappers and other litters in official water stations where there are stationed marshals. Not that people need reminding cause that’s common sense but it’s good to know they’re promoting a zero waste tolerance race.
3. I saw the sign
Bugoy race marshals were visible especially in what was considered a danger zone (for others) in the slippery loose downhill track of the Dita trail. Some sharp corners could lead you somewhere else if you’re not being careful and mindful. I heard some riders suffered a minor crash but nothing major. That’s normal in mountain biking cause there’s more fun than pain. The signs were all too funny and unique, too. Enjoyed the humor and it was encouraging, especially the beer waiting at the top. J You don’t see that a lot and in all the races I’ve joined, it’s the first time.
4. View from the top
Cebu is most beautiful by mountain bike. This race, hands down, promotes a different Cebu. All those you’ve read about the most unexplored places in the city don’t compare. They’re not accessible by any vehicle or just anybody else. You don’t get to see this side of the city if you don’t have a mountain bike. The only way to get there is by bike. Pedalling your way to the top is rewarded with a breath taking view, literally and figuratively.
5. Riders and their categories
This has always been an ongoing issue with the local riders and the cycling community. People don’t race on their rightful category. It’s a plus that Bugoy bikers know who’s who, so some of the veteran riders were screened and placed in where they should be. It does not apply to everyone though. I have zero respect for long time riders that are still racing in the beginners’ category. The legit beginners don’t even stand a chance. It’s like they’re being slaughtered. This, I do not entirely blame on the organizers. At this point, I don’t even wonder as to why there aren’t a lot of local riders in the international scene. Dishonesty gets you nowhere. I understand they may all be after the prized money but at the end of the day, did you really win, knowing you raced against people who aren’t as competitive and strong as you. These boys, they don’t have the balls to compete against they’re exact opponent. They’re no winners, just the first one to finish. Real champions are honest and compete with the best.
6. People are People
What kept me going through this race are the fellow participants. At some point, I felt like I didn’t join a cross country race. I felt so alone and lonely. I don’t see anyone behind or ahead of me. It was just me, my bike, and some cows. The heat was unapologetic and I’ve mentioned this before, racing is not just about physical but emotional fitness as well. You had to be mentally prepared for this race. It felt really good that other riders cheer you on even if you rode pass through them. The locals and the kids were a lot welcoming, too. Greeting a good morning with a warm smile, you can’t help but smile back, even if you feel like hell. Also thankful for my teammates, Team Big Ring, and other non-participating cyclists.
7. Girls, they’re getting harder
When news broke that Bugoy Bikers is organizing a cross country race, I personally sent Jens a message. I asked if there’s going to be a female category cause I didn’t see any on the official event poster. But I joined anyway. I’m fairly new to cycling and I’ve only been riding for almost two years. For this event, there were three registered female participants. Only two showed up but I’m the only one who completed and finished the race. I do appreciate the organizers for recognizing the female riders and giving me a special award. It felt like joining Tour de France cause they gave a stuffed tiger and a bouquet of fresh flowers for the Champions. I wish they would include a female category on their next race. I think that would also encourage more women to. In this city, mountain biking is still predominantly ruled by dudes on lycra. Hopefully, that would change or I will die trying.
8. Beer is food and more
Ice cold beer is waiting for every finisher at Tops Skyline Garden. After all that gruesome climbs, it’s nice to be rewarded with beer. The only complain I have for this race aside from the rider’s category is the post race nutrition. Aside from beer, I was expecting a bottle of mineral water at the finish line. There’s water in the venue but you can’t help expect for one when you cross the finish line. Look at the race course and for sure, most riders are dehydrated. It also took so long for the second batch of food to arrive. We were all famished when we left the race venue. The race started at around 9am and we left nearly 3pm. Can you just imagine how hungry we were? They did apologize for the delay of the food. I am hoping this won’t happen again, yeah?
9. Podium Girls
Do I really have to tell you why? One thing’s for sure, boys will always be boys. If they appreciate and get excited with the podium girls, I got all too excited with the raffle. I’m so unlucky when it comes to raffle prizes but good on those riders who won the major and minor prizes. From Rudy Project glasses/watch, bike parts, TWO slippers, shirts and many more. There’s even a voucher for a complimentary beer at a future tasting event held by Turning Wheels Craft Brewery. Beer and bike is always a good idea.
All in all, I still had a great time. That’s what matters. This race is even more painful than your occasional heart break. But you know, the things we do for the love of mountain biking. This is the good kind of hurt. I hope the next race is a better one or has a marathon format. I will still join and I’m even looking forward to it.