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As Philippines hosts UCI Gravel World Series, organizers hope to see the sport in SEA Games, Olympics one day

GMA News Online logo GMA News Online 05/03/2022 BEA MICALLER,GMA News
Photo courtesy of UCI Gravel World Series Photo courtesy of UCI Gravel World Series

The Philippines was given the rights by the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) to host the inaugural 2022 Trek UCI Gravel World Series race, which will kick off for the first time ever on April 3 in Bongabon, Nueva Ecija.

The Philippine leg will jumpstart more than 15 qualifiers where more than 350 participants, composed of riders both from the country and other nations, are tipped to race on the road.

Gravel riding, though not known to many yet, is a booming discipline around the world.  It has a combined elements of road and mountain bike, and being practiced mainly on unsealed roads such as gravel, forest tracks, farm roads, and cobbles.

As the world series starts in the Philippines, Filipino organizers hope to see gravel riding become a fixture on bigger stages.

"Yes, as I mentioned earlier first time magkakaron kumbaga ng World Series for gravel and nung last SEA Games marami tayong mga medals (in cycling), 'yung mga national athletes natin really trained for that," Edrie Ocampo, race director for 2022 Trek UCI Gravel World Series, told GMA News Online.

"For this race, meron na ring mga nag-sign up na elite athletes natin and we're hoping na kahit may mga foreign riders na pupunta, the Filipinos will [still] come out on top."

Apart from being one of the go-to pastimes of Filipinos during the pandemic, sport cycling proved to be a medal-rich sport for the country during its hosting of the 2019 SEA Games.

In the previous biennial meet, the Philippines copped a total of 11 medals from the sport, three of which was gold after John Derick Farr and Lea Denise Belgira topped the men's and women's downhill events.

Jermyn Prado, meanwhile, ruled the women's time trial of road cycling to complement the four silver and four bronze plums.

With these achievements, Ocampo hopes to one day have the discipline of gravel riding also included in the roster of high-caliber international sporting tournaments.

"Hopefully, within the next few years, we hope na ma-include siya sa mga SEA Games, Asian Games, or even Olympics someday."

On top of that, Ocampo is upbeat about the opportunity to promote local tourism through cycling.

"Isa ring dapat i-consider dito ay 'yung support ng LGU which is very thankful tayo sa LGU ng Bongabon, specifically kay Mayor Allan Gamilla kasi he's been supportive sa idea of hosting the bike tourism dito sa Bongabon," Ocampo, who is himself from Bongabon, added.

"Ang goal talaga namin, even before this race, is to make Bongabon the cycling capital of Central Luzon or even Northern Luzon or even ng buong Luzon."

The Philippine leg of the Trek UCI Gravel World Series will coincide with Bongabon’s festive season, which includes the Sibuyas Festival, held every 10th of April.

"Bongabon, being an emerging destination for cycling tourism and outdoor recreation, offers breathtaking sceneries with the most wonderful views of the Philippines’ untapped countryside. It’s also a great place with exciting backroads, trails, and routes that every adventure seeker would be thrilled to experience," added Gamilla, the Mayor of the municipality.

"Perfect in the summer, tourists can also enjoy the refreshing rivers and the cool weather at Mount Labi. It is also the home of the Bongabon Bike Park in Ariendo, an Enduro and Downhill MTB destination for the gravity riders."

Winner of the qualifiers will be awarded with the coveted UCI rainbow jersey and a spot in the 2022 Trek UCI Gravel World Series that will culminate by year’s end, the venue of which has not been disclosed yet. To qualify for this, participants must finish within the top 25% group per gender and age group.

—JMB, GMA News

This article As Philippines hosts UCI Gravel World Series, organizers hope to see the sport in SEA Games, Olympics one day was originally published in GMA News Online.

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