Racing the storm.

I survived my first typhoon here in the Philippines. In fact, I actually raced in the most violent downpour I’ve ever seen, and it was everything I expected it to be. I have never seen rain like that before and now when I watch racers complain about racing in weather, I know exactly what they are talking about. img_4615-1

The picture above is where the downhill was originally scheduled, but torrential rains washed out the shuttle road completely. We would instead race on a leg of the Enduro known as scout camp. The man made section built by the barba’s. It was a relief since I wasn’t completely confident racing the downhill track.

We assembled the team of OZracing at the factory, loaded up the team van with downhill, Enduro, cross country, and motor bikes alike, and left Cebu city around noon on Friday. img_4607img_4611

We arrived in Dumaguete around 10pm and after driving around closed roads littered with fallen trees, we eventually checked into a room and promptly got some much needed rest. We woke early, geared up, had breakfast, and readied the shuttle rig for some practice. The event was running behind schedule, which was fine with me, since I would be depending on my practice from 2 weeks prior. I hopped on the back of the scooter and got whisked up the hillside. The rain would soon become deafening and the normally fast and flowy single track turned into a constant search for traction.

I put in 2 confusing laps down. Not knowing if I was on the right track, or where the finish line was. Nevertheless, practice was over and it was time to start the Enduro with the first segment. I was a little surprised to know they dissolved my original class and grouped me with Elite. This particular race put me at a massive disadvantage between weather, a surgery a few days prior which left my hip sore, and still fighting pneumonia from 2 weeks prior. Regardless, racing is racing so I sacked up. Stage 1 would drop straight down into a wet ribbon of single track in between 2 small tin roof houses. Small pieces of tape would line select corners of the track, but could hardly keep you on course. I sprinted hard out of the start, chasing 3 of the fastest Filipino racers in front of me. I was finding traction and confidence while sheets of rain blanketed the view in front of me. I was having a heater of a run and had no signs of letting off the gas. I was finding my flow and after executing a few turns I quickly found myself outside the village and in between chickens and water buffalo. I ran far off course. Curse words flew from my mouth as I decided to sprint down the paved road back towards town completely directionless.

After what seemed like an eternity being lost, I rode up on a few other racers riding aimlessly down the road as well. Soon spectators started pointing in directions which I followed, leading me back towards the center of town. I started to notice roads blocked off with course marshals pointing racers towards the center pavilion. After a massive set of stairs, I would cross the finish line in disarray. Knowing my time wouldn’t be worth considering for a top spot. img_4629img_4639

I gathered myself and rinsed off to prepare for stage 2. My confidence building a little knowing where the finish line now was and also knowing stage 2 slightly better than the other stages. I would be more careful to not get lost, and not crash either. And before I could truly rest I was sprinting hard out of the gate again, pinning through the coconut trees and houses. The trail would open up in a small grass clearing and as my momentum was at full race speed I started to come up on another racer in front of me. I was gaining on him fast. 50 yards, 30 yards, 10 yards, 2 bike lengths and as I started looking for a spot to pass, his roost was being flung up into my face. Completely blinding me (goggles were useless, so I wasn’t wearing eye protection). My momentum started to pull me off the trail and I rode full speed into a 100 foot tall coconut tree. I didn’t hit it head on. Instead, my bike rode up the tapered base and looped into a backflip landing behind me almost 30 feet. It was a very heavy crash. But I quickly scraped myself off the muddy ground and straightened out my bars. I had dodged a huge bullet and before I could recognize I was unhurt, I sprinted out again chasing the racers in front of me. I didn’t get lost on that stage, but definitely had some mistakes. img_4635

I crossed the line and rinsed off again for the last stage. Stage 3 would start in an upper portion of trail and leak straight onto a one hundred yard chute littered with greasy roots and fallen leaves. An absolute complete recipe for a yard sale. I would skate through at speed and sprint down onto the connecting road and before long, I was hanging out with the farm animals once again. Lack of a taped course led me back into no mans land. I sprinted back down the paved road and gave up precious time in doing so. I crossed the finish line in dismay, happy that race 1 of the weekend was over. I immediately went to the store for a beer.

The downhill race was held late on Sunday, after the cross country race ran a little longer than expected. The downhill was a unique format for me, with 2 runs, first run being a seeding run to determine where you would start in your race category. UCI style. Given the weather, and the time, it was likely I would not get a second run, so I decided I would smash my first run as hard as I could. I passed on the big set of jumps and instead leaned into every manicured berm as best I could. Each time, I could hear the beads of my tire folding as roost rained down behind me. A clean run. And with darkness falling fast upon the land, I was up and sprinting again for my second run. Being chased by Gabriel Amigo, a Norco factory racer here in the Philippines, was an uneasy feeling and definitely pushed me to race outside my limits. But I sprinted across the grassy finish line again with what would be a semi conservative run. img_4630

Awards would take place later that night in the park pavilion. I would be relieved to take a 4th in Enduro and a 2nd behind Gabe in downhill. The other team mates would also place well in their respective categories. It would prove to be a great weekend of racing for our team. We cleaned up and hit the road back to Cebu. Arriving in the early morning hours

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The air quality here is not the best. I’m fortunate enough to be able to use an xrm 125 cc mini bike to get around on, but being jammed in traffic definitely flares up my breathing problems. Thankfully the healthcare here is consistent and cordial, and breathing treatments are easy and cheap. But it does make me feel like a pansy. Oh well. At least I can breathe.

I missed out on a lucrative job offer with an American company here, which would ultimately cut down on my time here. I recognized it wasn’t meant to be and continued on with my day to day unfazed.

I expressed an interest in seeing the hillsides here in Cebu, to Tom, our team manager, and he rallied Carlos to go on a mini moto adventure through the local mountainside. We left mid day on a sunday and spent the entire day blazing down single track and village roads on the back side of Cebu. We would stop frequently to joke around and buy snacks from small village stores. After riding for several hours, we would venture down onto a mountain top lake, surrounded by forest. Our climb back up ended at our usual roadside stop, the antique shop, where we would be greeted, once again, by sheeting rain. We would take refuge in a small vulcanizing shop where I had to have my rear inner tube changed after rallying a little too hard.

Tom would create an amazing blog article covering our team adventure for the race, and would land us on the front page of Pinkbike.com. I’ve been following the website ever since I could remember and I was completely elated to make the front page feed, regardless if it was during red bull rampage week or not. img_4638

Life in the Philippines continues to grant me amazing adventures with amazing people. And I’m happy to call it home for now. img_0387img_0384

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After almost 20 stages raced across 3 countries and 2 continents, my bike officially retired. Not a single mechanical. Front axle broken, brake calipers seized, rotors burnt, pads overcooked, bottom bracket toast. RIP. Ride in Peace diamondback 2014-2017. It’s been a ride.

 

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