Champ Oconer sees a lot of good in cycling’s rise–on so many levels
There was a time when the training grounds of George Luis Oconer, the lung-busting rolling hills of Rizal province, was just a long deserted highway with spectacular views.
But the past few years and especially in the onset of the pandemic, those scenic, flowing roads have become a bustling hub for serious cyclists as well as weekend bikers.
“I don’t mind sir,” the 28-year-old Oconer, last year’s Ronda Pilipinas champion and son of two-time Olympian Norberto, said in Filipino. “That only means the sport is getting attention.”
“And it’s lonely being on the road by yourself,” he added.
The younger Oconer took local cycling scene by storm when, as a 19-year-old high-schooler, he took third place in the maiden staging of Ronda, a professional cycling tour that cut across the country.
In that 2011 edition, Oconer also scored a stage win (Batangas to Tagaytay) and ran away with special awards including Best Young Rider.
All that by following his father’s advice: “Stay close with the strongest riders.”
“I remember I was allowed to train two days a week by my school,” recounted Oconer. “But I ended up just showing up at school one day a week. The rest of the week I was riding.”
Now a national team mainstay and Standard Insurance rider, Oconer said he won’t recommend quitting school in lieu of a cycling career. “It’s always good to finish your studies,” he said.
Currently the hottest sporting trend, cycling can be enjoyed by people of all ages, according to Oconer. “You can even be at your peak at 31 years old,” he said.
“I just hope that with the popularity of cycling, we get to catch the attention of powerful people who will help the sport, sponsoring tournaments and making laws ensuring cyclists’ safety,” he added.
With the pandemic, Oconer said his regimen is reduced to 100-kilometer daily rides, mostly traversing nearby towns of his hometown in San Mateo, Rizal.
Fortunately, he is getting by with his allowances from the Philippine Sports Commission and his club team. But he’s also augmenting his income selling cycling jersey sets.
“That’s why the more people getting into cycling, the better for my business,” he said.
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