MANILA, Philippines -- The Philippine mountain bike team is gearing up for the 31st Southeast Asian Games in Hanoi, Vietnam, where it hopes to match its medal haul from the previous edition of the biennial competition.
The National Mountain Bike Trials for cross country and downhill will be held in Danao City on June 11 to 13, in a track built by Oscar "Boying" Rodriguez, the chairman of the Mountain Bike Commission of PhilCycling.
Rodriguez, a mountain bike fanatic, has maintained the track that challenges the country's best local riders. Having seen countless mountain bike courses in Asia, he has tried to replicate them for the use of Filipino riders.
"This is where our national mountain bike team has trained ever since. Here in Danao, we have the most challenging track," Rodriguez said during Tuesday's Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) Forum.
"In the SEA Games, never kami na-zero (medals). And in Hanoi, we will try to match our haul of two golds, two silver and two bronze medals in 2019," he added.
Rodriguez proudly said that the track they built in Danao offers the toughest uphill and most technical downhill portions.
"Halos walang recovery. I want our riders to get used to the most challenging track," he explained.
The upcoming trials that will be held in the very challenging track will help Rodriguez determine the composition of the SEA Games team. Those selected will train in Danao as well by July, in the hopes that they will be in peak form come the event in November.
Head coach Eboy Quiñones, a gold medalist in the 2003 SEA Games, is surprised with the heavy turnout of elite riders seeking slots to the men's and women's cross-country, men's and women's downhill and team relay events for the SEA Games.
"We have as many as 40 riders, including youth riders, who came in from Bulacan, Cavite, Las Piñas, La Union and Bicol. Nagulat talaga kami sa turnout," he said.
According to Rodriguez, this marks the first time that they will be able to field a full team in the women's side in the SEA Games with fearless riders like Arianna Dormitorio, Avegail Rombaon, Nicole Quiñones, Pamela Ruiz, Melissa Jaroda and Shagne Yaoyao, who has won 14 races in Cebu since January this year.
He is also looking at forming a farm team for junior riders to nurture for future international competitions.