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With velodrome unavailable, track cyclists train on the road

Cracks are visible in the 333-meter concrete track of the Amoranto Velodrome in Quezon City, but that’s the least of concern of cyclists Christian Reyes and Melvin Corpuz.

Reyes and Corpuz are the country’s lone representatives in the track competition of the 29th Southeast Asian Games in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

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Less than seven weeks before the Games, the Philippines is pinning its hopes on two untested young cyclists who have not been to any track competition here and abroad.

In fact, both riders have logged more kilometers on the road than on the velodrome.

Although national cyclists are quartered inside the sports complex where the velodrome sits, they rarely get a chance to practice in the steeply banked oval tracks.

“Masuwerte ng maka tatlong beses kami sa isang linggo,” said national coach Carlo Jazul. “Usually, Monday at Tuesday lang, pero depende pa rin kung walang naka-schedule na activities.”

A religious group holds prayer rallies thrice a week in the middle of the field, bringing scaffoldings to build a stage and a number of tents. Large wires that power a sound system lay on the track, making the velodrome off-limits.

Despite the prohibition, trucks cross the track to deliver materials and equipment.

“Matigas ang mga ulo, hindi masaway,” said a lady guard.

Jazul, himself a former national cyclist, said he sees the participation of Reyes and Corpuz as part of their preparation for the 2019 Games which the country is hosting.

The two will see action in only two of eight track events – the Men’s Scratch and the Men’s Omnium, which Jazul believes they have a good chance of pulling off “Unang-una, walang oras involved doon,” he said.

In the scratch race, all riders start together and race each other for over 15 kilometers with the first over the finish line declared winner.

The omnium, on the other hand, is a multiple race event which consists of Tempo Race, Elimination Race, Scratch Race and Point Race.

Much of the preparation is done on the flat track because of the unavailability of the velodrome, according to Jazul.

Reyes, a 19-year-old incoming junior at Far Eastern University and Corpuz, a 20-year-old high school graduate, join the road team in training, travelling at least 40 kilometers a day just to get to one of three training venues.

Reyes and Corpuz use their own bikes to train and pay for the tires themselves when these get worn out.

While waiting for new ones, the two make do with old track bikes bought by the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) in 2004.

Reyes joined the national pool only seven months ago. He was spotted by Jazul while joining local fixed-gear races.
He started biking at the age of five, but got his first bicycle at the age of 15 after swapping his Samsung Galaxy mobile phone.

To prepare for the Games, Reyes said he took a leave of absence from school.

Corpuz, on the other hand, is nephew of Tour veteran Santi Barnachea. After finishing high school, he concentrated on cycling and saw action in Ronda and Le Tour races.

To make up for what they lack in overseas exposure, Jazul said they hope that their 40-day training in South Korea pushes through.

“Hindi pa nasagot ang mga Koreano, pero nakahanda na kami umalis sa July 10,” Jazul said.

The riders are set to train in the World Cycling Center Korea Satellite in Incheon where they get to sample the wooden track of an indoor velodrome.

The last Filipino cyclist to win the gold medal in the track was Victor Espiritu in 1997.

Jazul is hoping that it won’t take that long for cyclists to reclaim the velodrome.