Sports Events: 2022 UCI Gravel World Series, PH Leg
Dare to move? Butuan native Riemon Lapaza topped the race amid a challenging terrain in the recent UCI Gravel World Series 2022. History was again made as Philippines played host to be the only Asian country to host the 2022 UCI Gravel World Series. The international cycling event was held in Bongabon, Nueva Ecija last April 3, 2022. Featuring some of the most inspired riding and trying tracks in a race this year. The event marked as the starting point of the first-ever race series of its kind under the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI).
UCI Gravel World Series 2022 Kicks Off at Nueva Ecija
The multi-nation, multiple-leg race series kicked off last April 3, 2022 in Bongabon, Nueva Ecija. A picturesque municipality that has become a favorite destination within the global biking community for the past few years. Bongabon also happens to be the Onion Capital of the Philippines.
The race gun went off at exactly 6:00 AM with 5 minute intervals between each category. After enduring the dirt road with a flat tire near the finish line, Butuan native Riemon Lapaza emerged as the top placer of the Philippine leg in all categories. Lapaza triumphantly clocked in at 3:06:46.7. The champion of the men’s 35-39 years old category was trailed behind by Norway’s Rick Nobel, who placed first in the men’s 19-34 category.
Meanwhile, Mellisa Jane Jaroda topped the women’s 19-34 category. Jaroda ranked first among female racers with an impressive time of 3:39:00.639.
400 Riders Pedalled at the UCI Gravel Series Philippine Leg
Close to 400 riders were in attendance at the said UCI Gravel Series event. Each vying for the chance to finish the 85-km race. Riders endured hours going through a mix of uphill, downhill, and offroad tracks. Each qualifier was awarded with a finisher medal. While the top 25% of each rider category earned a UCI qualifying medal. And of course, automatically made it to the UCI World Championships.
Participants from the Philippines and the rest of the world powered through all the ascents, river crossings, water features, and everything else that Bongabon’s legendary terrain put in front of them. As Vic Narciso, one of the riders, described the journey as he crosses the finish line, “it was the most challenging and violent race I’ve ever done, but I can’t stop smiling.”
Ann Aleonar, who has been racing since 2010, shared that she was overwhelmed with gratitude. “I took a 5-year break from racing. And anyone who’s raced knows that it isn’t easy to come back – especially up to racing level,” Aleonar said. “And then the pandemic happened, it really wasn’t easy. When I actually finished and qualified, the first feeling I felt was gratefulness.”
International Bikers in Attendance
The Philippine leg was not only participated by local cyclists but also by competitors from Europe and Asia.
Tokyo’s Junro Nagashima of cycling team Roppongi Express, said that he was not surprised at how friendly the Filipino riders were. But that he was surprised at how comfortable they all made him and his teammate feel.
Rick Nobel from the Netherlands, was also seen smiling from ear-to-ear, in the midst of his newfound friends within the local riding community. Nobel placed first in the 19-34 Male category. Jared Hui, a rider from Singapore, wrote a long testimony on Facebook about how local MTB legend Bans Mendoza lent him his personal bike. After he realized that his own two-wheeler wasn’t the right setup for the race.
Bongabon Nueva Ecija as a Sports Tourism Destination
Bongabon Mayor Allan Gamilla also made an appearance and expressed gratitude to the organizers for tapping Bongabon, Nueva Ecija as the first and only Asian leg in the 2022 UCI Gravel World Series. “This is a big boost for Bongabon as a destination for sports tourism. We hope to make use of the municipality’s potential to help promote the country. As well as to further establish it as major global hub for gravel riding.”
These were just a few of the stories of how an amazing sporting event brings all kinds of people together. It was such a passionate and exciting sporting event. I personally am looking forward to catch the next race. And who knows, maybe even join the next one? Clearly, in more ways than one, UGWSPH made its mark. Awesome race everyone!
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