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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The Hardest One-Day Ride I Ever Did

I can't be the race director and not know what sort of suffering the racers will face in the upcoming EBD Barangay Tour. Last year was a last minute thing - everything was assembled. The only thing I had to do was show up and do some PR work. This year I want to be more hands-on. So with King, Dandan, Bruce, Tolits and Wreachelle, we rode the whole 65-kilometer course last Saturday.

I woke up at 4:00 in the morning. After some final packing, I left the house to pick up King and Dandan. There were two things I borrowed for this trip: my brother-in-law's extra fork-mounted bike rack for the extra bike and Victor's GPS unit to track the course.

I was in King's house at 4:30 a.m. but Dandan wasn't in the Shell Ever Commonwealth meeting point yet. We're running late and to make up some time, we went down Batasan and waited for him at the corner of J. P. Rizal. It was already 5:00 and the sun's starting to come up so we hurried to Petron in the South Super Expressway to meet up with Tolits and company. After a very quick McDonald's breakfast (I think I finished it in less than two minutes), we had the usual bathroom break and drove to Batangas City.

I think it was around 8:15 in the morning when we arrived at Oca's Shop. We parked in front and got ourselves ready while I got on the phone with Oca and asked him for our guide. After a few minutes, a cyclist clad in full BMB pink kit arrived - it's Totoy Bibo.

We left the shop about 15 minutes before 9:00. We stopped at the SM City Batangas Overpass to set our cyclocomputer and started our adventure.

The first part took us to the lowland barrios and barangays. If last year started on the highway to Lobo near Hotel Pontefino, this time we used the inner barangay roads. I forgot the names of these settlements. Before when I was still here I used to know these by heart. Now, I just called it the barangay roads left of the highway.

So these were mostly rolling on cemented roads. I think it was just an additional four kilometers of road before we connected to the highway again and turned left. Then it's another few kilometers of rolling on asphalt before we turned right for the first of many climbs.

It was steep but relatively short. It was less than a kilometer and I think a lot of racers who are unfamiliar with the course would attack and burn themselves here. I managed to climb crawl this on my bike's granniest gear (a 24x32, I think) but I was trying to catch my breath and was sweating buckets. I wanted to catch up with the others but had to consciously tell myself to ride at my own pace. From that point, it was still a long way to go and bonking is something you don't want to happen.

They were waiting for me at the turn. We stopped for a while and had some power cookies which I bought from Banapple. Another rider showed up shortly - Motmot of the BMB. He caught up with us and joined us for the rest of the ride.

Everybody's Still FreshWe geared up again and resumed our adventure. We had a taste of some downhills before another round of suffering going up to the gilingan in Sto. Domingo.

Like manna from heaven, an ice buko vendor showed up as we were in the middle of a climb. Of course we stopped and treated ourselves to a round of ice buko, ube and cheese ice popsicles. Too bad Bruce, Tolits, Totoy Bibo and Motmot weren't around to partake in our small feast. After paying the ice buko vendor and telling him to come back on the 24th, we went on our way.

The course was mostly on cemented roads with about 20% rough roads. There was barely a concern for traction going up the climbs. Nonetheless, there were some parts with loose gravel so we had to be careful.

The next break was at the gilingan, which is about 3/4 the climb up to Sto. Domingo. We rested for a short while over softdrinks. Then we geared up to finish the last quarter of the climb.

Resting at the top of Sto. DomingoIt was already past eleven in the morning when we reached the top. There were some parts that are steep and I was already tired. Good thing Dandan and Totoy Bibo took turns in pushing Wreachelle and me up the road. Actually, they would be doing this for a good part of the trip.

From there it was even more climbing before we did a long downhill leading to a small stream crossing. We were descending on a potent mix of cemented roads with some loose gravel on top and some stretches of offroad. It wasn't too technical but requires total concentration.

King, Bruce and MotmotThe stream crossing was a welcome break. While waiting for the others to arrive, we shared our stories on how hairy the descent was. After taking some pictures, we continued our grind as it was another steep uphill from the stream.

When we reached the top, it was again another scary cemented road downhill stretch. This time though it ended on a river trail leading to the ocean.

DSC05431.JPGRiding this part was probably the most fun I had for the whole trip. I thought at first that it would be slippery and soft, but when I did try spinning it was like biking on water.

We thought that this was the end of our suffering. Last year they took the bayside road leading to city from here, so we thought that we're on our way home. It was right then that Motmot pointed to the top of another mountain and said that we would be climbing that one going back.

Lunch BreakWe followed the river trail going to the beach. By this time it was already 2:00 in the afternoon and we haven't had lunch. Totoy Bibo and Motmot went ahead to look for a place to eat. We finally ended up in a house by the beach selling canned goods. They cooked us rice, scrambled eggs, sardines and tocino meat loaf. We were so tired and drained that this probably tasted like the best meal we ever had.

The Climb going to Pulot ItaasThe barangay is called Pulot Aplaya and we left at 3:00 to climb the hellish road to Pulot Itaas. It was a steep cemented road from the beach to the top of the mountain with about four or five switchbacks.

Of course all is not over as there are still lots of uphills and downhills and it's still about 20 kilometers to go.

We're glad to find a store somewhere on top of this climb. We were so dog tired that this store seem heaven-sent. The only thing lacking would be the sound of angels singing "Hallelujah!" We snacked on cookies and fig newtons over Coke and buko. What's so cool is the buko is free. Yup, they don't sell them and you're free to eat and drink as you please. After paying and thanking the owners, we went on our way.

It was still a long way back. There were lots of uphill and downhills before the big downhill from Haligue.

When I saw that place, I knew we were near. It was where Ka Amado and I would do our afternoon rides before. Going down was fun as I knew the only "climb" we have is the one near Shell refinery and that's it.

"Malapit na!"We had some mountain dew at the store at the bottom after the bridge then took a left turn to the overhanging bridge and enjoyed The trail and off-road section leading back to the highway.

Just the sight of the highway leading back to the city gave me a feeling of accomplishment deep inside. It was already past 6:00 in the evening. And so as the boys took advantage of the flats going back to SM City and Oca's bike shop, I paced with Wreachelle and cooled down as well.

It was one hell of a ride. From my opinion, it's something that one should do at least once in his lifetime. Then again, that might be pushing it a bit. Still, it's a great bonding moment with friends as well a great way to test one's soul.

Now that I know what the course is like, I can really say when I take the stage to brief the racers on the 24th that's it's going to be long and hard.

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