Bambol’s election not cycling’s biggest news
It could have been a Filipino cyclist with humble beginnings making history while pedaling past the Arc de Triomphe in Paris last Sunday to claim victory in the Tour de France.
But local cycling, once a popular sport highlighted by the fabled but defunct Tour of Luzon, later called Marlboro Tour—summer spectacle on wheels awaited by the masses, has failed miserably to produce a star fit for the world stage.
And so instead of a young Pinoy rider in the mold of Domingo Quilban from Bagabag, Nueva Vizcaya, it was Egan Bernal, a boy wonder from the Andean village of Zipaquira in Colombia, who wrote history by becoming the first cyclist from a Latin American and a third world country to win the globe’s most prestigious and grueling cycling race.
Like Quilban, a pedalist known in his prime as “King of the Mountains,” Bernal was an uphill climber on his daily 20-kilometer grind from his hometown 2,700 meters above sea level to a university in Bogota. The region’s hilly climbs provided him endurance in the lung-busting mountain laps of the 3,480-km race.
Bernal, 22, becomes the youngest to win the Tour de France in 110 years. His triumph, fought over 21 days, earned him more than $550,000 (roughly P28 million). But his true windfall will come from product endorsements and the goodwill and recognition from sports fans.
Bernal’s victory easily eclipsed the win by the PhilCycling chief as president of the national Olympic body.
And already, newly elected Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) head Abraham Tolentino appears to be picking a fight instead of mending fences with the majority in the POC board of old guards kosher to athletics head Philip Ella Juico, the guy he narrowly defeated.
“Who is the real bully here?” an Inquirer source asked, referring to Tolentino.
According to the source, Tolentino, while POC chair under the brief term of Ricky Vargas, tended to ram through things without regard to procedure. “Why he told a Philippine Sportswriters Association forum that he faces bullying by the majority in the 13-member POC board bugs,” the source said.
Tolentino, known as Bambol, also told the forum: “I hope they (board majority) will cooperate … If they want a smooth relationship within the board, they should follow. I eat bullying for breakfast so I won’t be bullied.”
Bambol added that “once the board refuses to toe the line, I will just seek approval of the general assembly (GA).”
The source said as long as Bambol’s proposals are good for the POC and Philippine sports, the board will approve them. “But his bombast won’t sit well with the board majority.”
“How can Bambol bring matters to the GA when the board is the policymaking body of the POC? The GA will ratify all board resolutions. Bambol can’t bend the rules.”
“It’s déjà vu,” the source stressed. “The board majority supported Vargas when he became POC president. Problems started when he disregarded proper procedure.”