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mountain biking

Bike Harabas sa Baras 2006 March 25, 2006 Saturday/Sunday

Bike Harabas sa Baras 2006

When I logged in at the bike e-group, Karerista, I got wind of a 24-hour bike race from the Baras Cycling Club in cooperation with the Nomads. I quickly sent an email to the organizers advising my plan to cover the event for this site. I got a quick affirmative reply. In my head, I flashed back on the 24-hour races I covered with Trilife. I thought about winding single-tracks, foot bridge crossings, navigating through mud and rocks, etc. Close to the day, I learned to my chagrin that it was a solo road race on a 6-km loop. Ooops! That's a roadie event. I'm riding on a dual-suspension mountain bike with full knobbies. What the heck would I be doing there? I was skeptic.

The Bigger Picture
My yogic instinct took me a step back to see a bigger picture beyond the race course. I imagined the town of Baras itself, the locals, maybe the food, meeting the riders, the race organizers and of course, the pleasant surprises that happen along the way. It somehow called to me. I packed up my gear and was ready to go.

Getting There
I didn't think getting there would provide challenges but it did, which added more flavor to my day. Everyone advised me to take the Antipolo route but I persisted to taking the lesser known Cogeo route. It took me to a heavy traffic jam along a municipal market. There was no accident - just vendors spilling over the streets, people being blocked off and using the streets as pedestrian lane, jeeps loading and unloading passengers where they should not, etc. Already, this once rural area has succumbed to rapid congestion without the urban infrastructure in place.

After a few more kilometers, the paved road narrowed into a dirt road with cogon grass by the sides. My poor car was taking a beating. I found myself on a rugged plateau with a shut-down landfill. Looking at the surrounding area, I caught site of PhilComSat's gigantic satellite dishes. Hmmm...where am I? After asking for directions, I finally arrived at the town of Baras. The trip from UP took 45 kms.

The Personalities
Romy Ballesteros, founder of the Nomads Adventure Club, is perhaps the youngest 50-year old I've met. He has a pleasant and youthful demeanor, he keeps his bases covered to free him to pursue his adrenaline quests on weekends, and he pushes the envelope. A very amenable guy, he candidly talked about base jumping, paint ball and adventure racing. He was at the event to race solo as well. This guy inspires me. In Romy, I found my pleasant surprise. From then on, it was all good.

Mayor Willy Robles. There's nothing like getting the mayor's endorsement to ensure that an event goes smoothly. Potentially disastrous logistical nightmares become moot and academic. Such was the case here. The mayor was unmistakably the big cheese in this town. His presence commanded authority. With his blessing, the barangays and the police force were mobilized to keep the event running seemlessly. From what I gathered, he's a hands-on guy who rose from the ranks including being barangay chairman.

The Race
The race started around 1pm, an hour behind schedule. There were about 100 riders, mostly hopefuls to bag the P10,000 prize money. Some pros actually showed up with their feather-light road bikes. For those who showed up on their bomb-proof mountain bikes, I admire them for guts and spirit. They could not have been there for the money.

Before I could make my third lap, the first wave of ultra-fast riders already passed me by. When all the roadies disappeared in front of me, the mountain bikers on slick tires made their pass. They're not as aerodynamic as the roadies, but they cut through the wind better than any full-suspension cross country bike on knobbies. It didn't really matter. I was there to soak it all. I didn't plan on riding for 24 hours anyway - just enough to cover 60K (30K on daylight and 30K at night).

A Fatality
We all know it's hot. But the heat that day was waaaaaay too much. It's not an exaggeration. This goat's mate just collapsed and died because of it. Worse, a 61 year old rider from Marikina died as well. It was speculated that given his age, the exhaustion and the heat, he suffered a stroke while racing. He swerved into the coming jeeps and crashed into them. What killed him though was the heart failure. I couldn't get over the fact that he just kissed his family goodbye that morning. Now, he's coming home in a body bag. Moments like this make me realize once again how fragile life can be and how devastating it is for the ones we leave behind.

The Town of Baras
Increasingly, my interest goes beyond the race circuit but flow over into the town itself. Since I was there, thought I might as well take a leisurely walk. I passed by their church, watched the boys play in the park and hung-out with some locals. Like any other isolated locality, they're friendly but remain curious about a new face walking down their street.

Being in a new place also means trying out the food. I'm not looking for fine dining. I get more kick with street food - isaw, halo-halo and dirty ice cream. It's always a treat to see the same common staple prepared a slightly different way.

Hits and Misses
No race is perfect. This one has its share of hits and misses too.

  • community support - this club event could very well have been a town event. The mayor, police, barangays and municipal staff cooperated to make this as organized as possible.
  • friendly hosts - the Baras Cycling Club, with head Sonny Varde, was very accomodating. Their demeanor showed they love the sport and enjoy what they do.
  • 6 kilometer loop - this is just too short to be riding on for 24 hours. After a few laps, monotony set in. A 25K loop would have been ideal.
  • exhaust fumes - even though the marshalling was great, we were still riding along the same roads as the jeeps and tricycles. After a few laps, the exhaust fumes were taking its toll on our lungs
  • humps - yes, part of the race course had humps

Ending Thoughts
I'm glad I pushed through, notwithstanding it's primarily a roadie event. In fact, given the big picture, the roadie aspect of the event was just a footnote. The trip to Baras has become a personal adventure - of getting lost, meeting other cyclists and members of the Baras Cycling Club, talking to Nomads founder Romy and taking delight in his love for life, seeing a hands-on mayor take active involvement, riding through what I would call a heat wave and seeing the inner bowels of the town...not bad for a day's adventure.

--- TheLoneRider

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