November 22, 2015 marks my third year in the premier mass participation ride event held in Metro Manila: BGC Cycle Philippines.
THE RIDE PACK
If there’s one thing consistent about the Cycle Philippines events, it’s that they give you a very nice jersey as part of the ride pack, still made by F2P. The print this time around is much better than the 2014 edition, while still retaining the same colorway of orange, turquoise, black, and white.
As with the 2015 running of Alaska Cycle Philippines last May, there’s a “transition bag” that’s essentially three drawstring bags – one each for swimming, cycling and running. They also give you a musette or feed bag.
Rounding out the package are the race number, three helmet stickers, the large transponder-equipped number sticker for the bike…and a green bag of Regent snack foods and Goya chocolate products. This time around, at least there’s much less of them. Last May, they ate up almost all the space inside my panniers purely from the air volume inside them.
A full ninety percent of the route from the 2014 running is intact in this go-around. It still starts at Bonifacio Global City, where riders go through some of the smaller streets until they are launched up Kalayaan Flyover, crossing EDSA and landing on Gil Puyat Avenue. Riders continue westward until the left turn under the flyover at Roxas Boulevard, where a U-turn awaits. This is the main difference from last year, where riders turned farther west at J.W. Diokno Boulevard instead. From there, it’s a return trip back to Gil Puyat Avenue, up Kalayaan Flyover, and down Rizal Drive.
As I was on the 40 km Challenge, I took a second lap of all this, minus the initial side street stroll around Bonifacio Global City.
Confession time: I managed to bungle the start by jumping the gun five minutes early.
I made the mistake of following the riders in front of me, when they were really part of the wave of riders that were supposed to ride with Aussie ex-pro and Tour de France green jersey winner Robbie McEwen. Oh well. I was already in the fray; I might as well make the most of it. So sue me.
Jumping the start did allow me to put in a proper chase effort. This was the first Cycle Philippines outing where I used clipless pedals, and I was glad I had them because I was drafting behind some really hard riders. I had managed to complete the first lap keeping pace with the six-man Robee Stickers cycling team…up until Kalayaan Flyover, where they eventually dropped me after the climb plateaued back to 32nd Street.
As the second lap started, without a train for me to “caboose” with, I immediately felt slower. Hahaha!
Because the route is practically unchanged from last year, it’s becoming fairly apparent that it also conflicts with Sunday morning vehicle traffic, which is at the point where closing just one lane and three intersections makes for lots of irate drivers. Rerouting to Roxas Boulevard was a welcome improvement, as the World Trade Center junction was no longer a choke point. However, my friends were in agreement: Gil Puyat Avenue’s stretch from Osmeña Highway to Roxas Boulevard is still very busy, and may not be the best venue for this kind of event any more. Some of them were still trying to push their way into the closed U-turn slots, where a lot of riders (myself included) had to stop, dismount, push our bikes around the wayward cars, remount, and continue on our way.
As my friend Jojo Bartolome of Kuripot Biker said post-ride, “we annoyed a lot of car drivers today.”
That left turn under the flyover to Roxas Boulevard was the site of a lot of close calls from riders, too. It doesn’t help that the turn is slightly blind, because of the support columns of the flyover, but a lot of riders weren’t even staying on the right side as they should, increasing the risk of collision. Route marshals didn’t do enough to prevent wayward pedestrians from crossing, either – too many of them grossly misjudged how fast the cyclists were going.
Finally, I managed to cramp both legs along the bumpy westernmost end of Gil Puyat Avenue. The left calf I managed to stave a full onset away from, but my right calf properly seized for a good half-minute as I overtook a slower cyclist. Forcing myself to relax, I eventually recovered and completed the ride as strongly as I could, cramp-free.
As with previous Cycle Philippines events, the post-ride meal was a hearty Sausage McMuffin and a bottle of Gatorade. I heard mumblings from the riders about the organizers being stingy with the hydration this time around, offering Gatorade only on the second lap of the 40 km Challenge ride.
There’s something to be learned from this third running of BGC Cycle Philippines. While I’m glad that Sunrise Events president Wilfred Uytengsu has promised repeated runnings of this event in the foreseeable future, I’m not sure I want to join again next year unless the route is improved. I don’t want to see events like this stir up hatred of cyclists among vehicle drivers when “sharing the road” is the name of the game.
Alaska Cycle Philippines 2015 mostly got it right back in May: a very compact criterium-style course that took up only one side of Roxas Boulevard and the streets leading to SM By the Bay. I think its November counterpart should do the same.