Xterra Cebu, Philippines
2’38, 40″ behind winner Ben Allen
It’s a fanfare, a mosaic of lights and sounds and smells and frights. Think Chicago the musical, or Australia in the Buz Luhrmann style, you get a genre for the Xterra Cebu in the Philippines. To mates back home I suggested imaging racing through Khayalitsha. Well, if I had any lingering fear of canines while biking, I sure do no more.
We saw the sun rise across the calm sea. Small waves caressing the white sandy beach hinted at ocean but could well have been fresh water for it’s calm pulse. The Philipino culture is the opposite though, a festive one, bustling vibrancy, and their pumping mix of R&B and House got Brad and I into a jammed up party mood. Which for the anti-morning soul I am, says a lot.
Beach start, dolphin diving, onto the Australian Ben Allen’s feet, got squeezed to third by a Scott, Rory Downey, to exit some 15sec down into the bamboo bike rack transition. Thats about where the premeditated race plan ceased.
Before mounting, I stopped to inflate my front tire. I had switched tires on Thursday after the first pre ride, and for some reason the Renegade was struggling to seal. It seemed fine after Friday’s ride, and even fine first thing yesterday morning in transition, where it had to be left over night. I inflated a little more before race start and that must have unsettled a seal somewhere. Being rushed, I most likely over inflated, mounted and started chasing madly.
Riding across the first grass field glittered with morning dew at full n glorious flight, my front drifted and sent me weightless till Asian soil and right shoulder met with force. Bounced, rolled and scratched my top tube of my new bike with the twisting of handlebards – which was the most upsetting part of the ordeal. The Scott saw the drama, and therefore had to be passed a second time. I considered stopping to deflate, but hoped to bridge before doing so. After a few sketchy handling errors I finally stopped to deflate the front before descending the most brilliant bit of natural single track, starting from an amazing mountainous lookout you descend surf like on marbles of lava rock, before the hiking trail for local wood gatherers winds down to grass lands and the local village football field.
I started the second lap believing I was still down on Allen. However, Allen had taken a wrong turn and was behind me!? I pushed on with intense aggression, brushing past chickens and goats as if they were still life animations. The locals had really gathered during our first lap, and now hordes of village folk cheered in amusement. Much trail was on their door step, such that cooking smells were part of the ride.
We caught and passed many of the back markers during our second lap, and on the lava rock descent, I was inclined to take all sorts of risks. If only I’d known I was leading. Regrettably while passing a lady where I should not have been riding, way off the desired riding line, I punctured my front. It went down too quickly for me to feel I should attempt plugging with my one remaining CO2 canister. Getting the valve stem removed, tire off and tube in, with short finger gloves dripping with high humidity sweat, became a mess likened to eating jelly n custard with chopsticks. I haven’t tried that, but it must be similarly slow going and temperament testing.
While fixing both Ben and Brit Sam Gardener passed without saying a word. So to my amazement into T2, I found Sam getting his running shoes on and word to Ben being 45sec only.
(Lucky to get home with the bubble.)
I felt fluid off the bike and ran aggressively, moving away from Sam in a hurry. Within 3-4km I passed Ben with determination to seal the day. Glanced back once and noted at least a 30sec cushion. I felt I owned the day.
We had not been able to see the run route during the two days here, and I was stunned with each additional lava rock hillside we tapped up. Little ravine’s between the climbs had stifling motionless heat. I started to drain, started to labour, started to fold. It is not nutrition by hydration.
When Ben passed with about 800m to go, I looked at his stride and realised that although he was running plenty quicker than I, he was hardly doing anything special. You don’t realise how much you are dysfunctional until you see such reality. I still had the fastest run split of day, despite the meltdown. Perhaps I should have started more graciously, perhaps a water bottle should have been carried.
Bitterly frustrating, but much positive as well. So many what’ifs. Guess if I didn’t have that burning hunger and ‘positive’ greed, I shouldn’t be playing the game. We get to race again next weekend.
Must be said, Ben did not have a flawless day either, and did well to stay in the hunt on the run. Deserving victory.
Behind me Brad had an eventful day as well. Thankfully neither of us collided with animal, scooter or child. Brad did wrap a chain and lost time fixing the situation. He finished 4th behind Sam. But I believe he’ll be a lot closer in the coming weeks.
Loved catching up with good friend Lesley Paterson, now double Xterra WC. It’s the sort of friendship I missed out on by being away much of the last year. She finished 3rd overall, passing both Sam and Brad on the run!? Stunning form.
Brilliant care and attention to detail by our hosts, the Sunrise Events team. Congrats on a festive event, smiles all round. The people of the Liloan, including the mayor, we equally hospitable and friendly. It was unmistakable yesterday, how selfless and tolerant their culture is. Worth noting and considering.
Tomorrow we fly further East to Saipan.