The 2015 running of Alaska Cycle Philippines did a lot of things right. It boasted a compact, criterium-style layout for the 40 km Challenge course; a smooth, well-organized registration and ride kit claiming procedure; and one of the best-looking, most flattering cycling jerseys I’ve ever had.
Will the 2016 edition better it?
REGISTRATION AND RIDE KIT
Organizer Sunrise Events opened the 2015 event’s registration a few days before 2014 ended, and it made a huge splash about it. By comparison, in 2016 they seemed half-hearted in raising awareness, and early bird registration opened in the middle of February.
It had also become a little dearer to participate. The price of admission had gone up considerably, even for the most cost-effective option: early bird registration for the 40 km Challenge as a group of four. Registering this way effectively joins the fourth team member for free. Even so, effective price per head was now PhP1575, compared to the PhP1350 of previous Cycle Philippines events.
This time around, I signed up with Rommel Cruz, Mike Nera, and BJ Serrano of SudRouleurs.CC.
As with the 2015 edition, Microtel Suites at the bayside SM Mall of Asia area played host to the ride kit claim, and the Sunrise Events team certainly repeated their good job with the venue. When I went at around 10:30 am, there was a lot of people, but Microtel’s function room was just big enough to keep things from disintegrating into chaos. They even retained the bike parking area too.
So what’s in the kit? The essentials are still there: the RFID-tagged bike number tag, the three helmet stickers, and the race number pinned to the jersey.
They did away with the junk food and threw in useful extras instead. Helmet and eyewear maker Spyder threw in a small wrist cuff with reflective print and a tiny zippered pocket, as well as a strange combination of a sun visor and a “Buff” headgear. Both are certainly useful for cyclists and are thoughtful additions.
We also got some samples of Cetaphil’s skin care products, a small pack of tissues, and a collapsible fan.
As before, F2P make the event jerseys. It’s a nice combination of hues, with the dominant black and gray fade flattering most people’s physiques. While not bad, I still prefer last year’s design.
Previous jerseys were made in the Lao PDR. F2P seems to have moved production to Thailand this time around.
It’s still got three pockets at the rear, but little else in terms of features. Quality is still up there, though.
I had concerns about the BGC Cycle Philippines 2015 route for the 40 km Challenge because it threw in Gil Puyat Avenue. Even on a Sunday morning, this road is busy enough that closing its span from Makati to Pasay resulted in a lot of irate drivers.
As it turns out, Sunrise Events decided to tap Gil Puyat Avenue again for this event.
From the start/finish line along Seaside Boulevard, the Challenge route runs along J.W. Diokno Boulevard and up to Gil Puyat Avenue, where riders pedal along its length until the Paseo de Roxas intersection. There, they all double back the opposite way, turning right at Roxas Boulevard. Riders then complete three laps, bookended by U-turns at the City of Dreams casino and the Gil Puyat Avenue flyover. After the final lap, cyclists forego climbing the flyover and turn into the World Trade Center area before swinging into J.W. Diokno and Seaside Boulevards for the finish.
This is in stark contrast to last year’s layout, which was largely self-contained within the area of Roxas Boulevard and SM By the Bay and did away with as much use of Gil Puyat Avenue as possible.
Even worse, the 2016 edition changed up the schedule and had all rides on a much busier Saturday morning. How much more irate people would get, we will see.
The four of us all started late.
We were registered as the last of Wave A, so our ride-out time was supposed to be at 5:30 am. Subsequent waves were released two minutes apart. Unfortunately, we arrived late due to long queues at the outdoor parking areas. Apparently they had opened only at 5:15 am. Once parked, we unloaded our bikes from Rommel’s pickup, stuck on his bike number tag and helmet stickers, and pushed our bikes over to the start/finish line as quickly as we could.
Rommel and I arrived in time to join Wave F, with Mike and BJ nowhere to be seen. Oh well.
The initial plan was for me to draft for Rommel at around 25 km/h. Unfortunately, when we turned into Gil Puyat Avenue, congestion due to other riders, the single available lane, and the generally cyclist-unfriendly state of the road slowed us right down. Rommel waved me off, so I pushed on, slicing my way through gaps as I rode to the Osmeña Highway train crossing. Riding in the drops, I pushed a 32 km/h pace while passing lots of slower riders.
As expected, lots of motorists and pedestrians were frustrated with the Gil Puyat Avenue road closure. Little wonder, as it was a busy Saturday morning. After rounding the Paseo de Roxas U-turn, we had to stop for half a minute at the Makati Avenue intersection as the cops and route marshals had to let a few irate drivers through. We started again and rushed through the remainder of the Gil Puyat route before swinging over to Roxas Boulevard to start our three laps.
From previous editions of these events, I knew that the wide expanse of Roxas Boulevard was home to some stiff headwinds, and this day was no exception. I rode in the drops for most of this leg, while chasing slower riders and holding on to their rear wheels as I approached them for added shelter from the wind. I held 27-28 km/h on the flat sections, but felt my right calf starting to cramp. I clicked into easier gears to decrease the load, and managed to stave off a full onset.
On the climbs of the Gil Puyat and EDSA flyovers, I opted to stay seated, click into easier gears, and spin the cranks as best as I could, maintaining 16 km/h and no slower. I shuffled to the rear of my saddle and rotated the load toward my glutes and hamstrings.
There was one instance where I had to suddenly put on the brakes, as there was this rider on a mountain bike that swerved into my path as I was attempting to pass him on his left. I felt my right calf cramp once as I braked and wrestled Hyro into a better position to pass.
At the end of my second lap, I saw a rider in a pink and blue jersey pass me on my left. It was Michael Caya of the United Folding Bikers. He was drafting for my pals Timothy Lacbay and Sean Ilaguison, the three of them keeping a well-coordinated paceline, and I greeted them hello. They were already on their way back to Seaside Boulevard, and I told them I had started late.
My third lap went without incident, although my left hand was starting to get numb from all the forward-leaning weight. I improved my seated climbing to 18 km/h, too. I almost had to come to another stop on the turn to J.W. Diokno from the cars, but I managed to keep moving.
I had done enough to stave off my cramps, so I thought of shooting for a sprint finish – an achievement I’ve never pulled successfully. Another rider on a white Specialized Tarmac road bike seemed to have the same idea. Waiting for the final intersection, I stood up, cranked on the drops, and launched a huge 992 W sprint – propelling myself from 35 km/h to 48 km/h on the final 200 meters to the line.
After crossing the line, I had no cramping at all as I whooped from the adrenaline rush. Rolling into the finishers’ area, I was given a Sausage McMuffin. White Tarmac guy pulled up and congratulated me on the sprint. His name was Andy, a triathlete. We remained near the finish line area, chatting away as we waited for our companions to cross the line.
I walked over to congratulate Timothy, Michael and Sean. Michael in particular had put out some amazing numbers, averaging 30.8 km/h. Kuripot Biker author Jojo Bartolome was also there, finishing in good form and keeping pace with road bikes with his blue Brompton.
Lastly I met up with my guys Rommel, Mike and BJ. It was the first time for almost all of them and they were abuzz with pride. BJ’s training regimen had paid off, and he completed the distance without cramps and without difficulty on the climbs. All of them wanted to do it again.
I’m of two minds with this year’s running of Alaska Cycle Philippines. On the one hand, the ride kit is excellent; logistics were well-managed; and there’s very minimal route interference like what happened with BGC Cycle Philippines 2015.
On the other hand…I hope they just do away with Gil Puyat Avenue altogether. The stretch the marshals close from Osmeña Highway to J.W. Diokno is pretty bad for all parties, and I believe replacing the whole Gil Puyat leg with another lap around Roxas Boulevard would be much better.