Philippine riders tipped to best 2007 gold haul
MANILA, Philippines—Deprived of the chance to compete in the 2009 Southeast Asian Games in Laos, Filipino cyclists are raring to acquit themselves this time in Indonesia.
PhilCycling pre-sident and Tagaytay City Mayor Abraham Tolentino declined to reveal their gold-medal target in the coming Games in Palembang and Jakarta but there are clear signs that the 12-man cycling squad could surpass the four golds the Filipinos won in the meet’s 2007 edition in Thailand.
Former SEA Games gold medalists Alfie Catalan (track), Joey Barba (downhill) and Marites Bitbit (road) reinforce a solid mix of young and seasoned legs in the squad.
Mark Galedo, the 2009 Tour champion, and Tour veterans Ronald Gorantes and George Oconer pose a strong challenge in the road race, while John Renee Mier and Jan Paul Morales make a formidable trio with Catalan on the track.
“I don’t want to make any predictions,” said Tolentino. “Let’s just say, we’ll give our opponents a good fight.”
PhilCycling is fielding the veteran Alvin Benosa in the cross-country race and il-Ams Daniel Patrick Caluag and Alexis Vergara as well as Fil-Australian April Eppinger in the BMX category.
Tolentino said Caluag and Vergara impressed national team evaluators with their fine form in the United States.
The cost of sending the cycling squad to the Nov. 11 to 22 Games will be shouldered by tycoon Manny V. Pangilinan, whose MVP Sports Foundation set aside P10 million to help fund several teams in the national contingent.
Filipino riders were barred from competing in the 2009 Laos Games after failing to secure licenses from the world-governing Union Cycliste Internationale.
“We lack foreign exposure going to the SEA Games, but I guess this makes our riders hungry for victory,” said Tolentino.
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