The third annual XTERRA Philippines Championship race in Liloan (Cebu Province) is just two days away and pros from around the world are reveling in the culture and race course that combine into “One Epic Adventure,” according to reigning champ Ben Allen.
Two-time XTERRA World Champ Lesley Paterson agrees, writing “I just spent the most amazing time checking out the XTERRA Philippines course…Wow! Got a true slice of the Filipino lifestyle - through backstreets and stalls, overtaking cows and goats, passing kids on bikes, up through dense jungle like tracks, rocky descents, down valleys, stopping on a mountain top for fresh coconut water straight from husks cut by an old toothless guy with a machete....talk about a slice of the culture. THIS is why I do this sport!”
Cebu is the second stop on the XTERRA World Tour and first of three exotic championship races in March, with XTERRA Saipan and Guam to follow. XTERRA’s “Triple Crown of the Western Pacific” provides a wonderful opportunity for racers to kick-off their season in style with great people and terrific training grounds in warm weather.
The adventure has attracted a top-flight international pro field representing South Africa (Dan Hugo, Bradley Weiss), Switzerland (Olivier Marceau, Renata Bucher), Australia (Ben Allen), England (Sam Gardner, Daz Parker, Jacqui Slack), Austria (Carina Wasle), Canada (Mathieu O’Halloran), Scotland (Rory Downie) and Malaysia (Shahrom Abdullah).
"I had heard so much about XTERRA Philippines - the beauty, the organization, the local support, that I had to come check it out,” said Paterson. “I'm so excited to travel to this part of the world and be able to race in one of the best XTERRA’s on the circuit, and even have some fun with my hubby who is joining me on the trip!"
While this year’s race remains in Liloan, the course has moved from the Amara subdivision up the coast to the seafront at Barangay Jubay. The reviews of the new venue have been unanimously applauded.
“Always surprised that there is such good mountain biking here,” said last year’s women’s champ Renata Bucher who is making her third straight appearance at XTERRA Phil, as are Carina Wasle and Daz Parker. “You never ride straight. The course is always turning and going up-and-down. It’s super interesting.”
Ben Allen, who won all three races in the Triple Crown last year, added even more color. “As soon as you mount your bike you enter a unique stretch of coconut trees then drop down into a technical little single track that runs parallel to a full flowing river. Lots of bumps and turns not to mention dodging a stray cow, dog, goat, cat, frog, chicken etc... leads to a nice challenging hike a bike section before the first of many climbs you will encounter to get the heart rate rising. It’s up & down like a roller coaster, but you have to take a sneak peak at the beautiful surroundings and amazing coastline of Cebu. Look quick though, because the descent is fun, fast, hair-raising, jaw dropping, undies-changing goodness all rolled up in a ball!”
Allen said that for the experienced mountain bikers it is “pure heaven, a wicked course with challenges around every corner” and to be sure to “stop & try the local Buco (Coconut)…very refreshing.”
XTERRA’s managing director “Kahuna Dave” Nicholas also got a peak at the course, and shares his day with us here…
“Ahh progress. The 2013 edition of XTERRA on Cebu in the Philippines will be completely different than the prior years. Development has taken most of the land where we were for the past two years and the Philippine Team had to find a new place to stage the race.
What they found was a diamond in the rough and what has come of polishing and cutting is a new gem of a race from swim to finish. This course will feature climbs and descents – single track and technical pieces far in excess from what the old course had.
Let’s start with the swim. The old swim was off a cement pier and athletes had to get assistance out of the water up on a dock and then run to transition. And it was tough – I recall in 2011 Daz Parker actually pulled her handler off the dock and into the sea! At the new course it is all a nice yellow sand beach. Wide and flat and sandy, the swim will be two laps of just under 700 meters with a short beach run between laps. The kicker is the end of the swim is not the end of the swim. Up on the beach but back into a salt water pond on the other side, through a sea wall and another 100m back to shore. Both the swim start beach and the swim exit beach have cool little cabana’s which spectators can sit in and enjoy the swim and the adjacent finish line.
Now the amazing piece. Transition here is absolutely the most natural possible transition setup I have ever seen, and I have seen most. Bike racks are hand made from local bamboo. The entire transition lot is covered with a canopy of tamarind trees which keeps it cool and dark. The ground is crushed coral and sand. Uprights are 3”- 4” diameter bamboo dug about a foot into the coral and tamped hard. Damn things are like set in concrete. Every 3m (10’) another upright and all the horizontal bars are thick, stiff bamboo tied together with thin steel wire woven together to make the package strong and tight. The pro racks are also made of bamboo, but in the fashion of a school bike rack where your front wheel goes between two steel bars. Here, craftsmen split the bamboo making a crescent shaped upright that is nailed to a 2x2 and bamboo frame. No electricity was killed in making this entire scene which holds about 500 bikes. Hand saws and unbelievably sharp machete’s cut and shape everything. Take a look at the photos, it’s a masterpiece of Filipino ingenuity and creativity.
Oh yeah, the bike. Two laps of 18k for the full course and one lap for Sprint. Some very short, steep climbs that few will ride and some longer rough, rocky climbs with loose gravel will give the power riders lots to chew on. There are some short, technical downhills that are actually swoopy and fun – left-right-left. As you ride to the top of the island of Cebu you go past Mang Berto’s property and then have a long 3K downhill back to the villages. All these pieces are connected by coral and sometimes paved sections that will make this an interesting and challenging course. Along these pieces are stretches of flowers planted by locals as part of a contest among neighborhoods to see who could be the prettiest.
Cebu sits about 350 miles from Manila (an hour commuter flight) and is steeped in history. This is the place where Magellan died (he’s one of the guys who invented the GPS). The Spanish first brought Christianity to Zubu (Cebu) and the first city in the Philippines was established here in the mid 1500’s. Much more to talk about, but Cebu is very old.
We’ll do the run tomorrow. Again, completely different than the past which was fun and wet but flat. Bring some climbing legs for this edition. Fabulous people, fabulous place the Philippines.”