Puerto Princesa is ready—and so are bidders led by Casares—for Ironman 70.3 Sunday
PUERTO PRINCESA—“I want to win. I’m ready and my body feels good.”
Thus declared Southeast Asian Games gold medalist Fernando Casares as he emerged as one of the favorites in Sunday’s Ironman Puerto Princesa 70.3, the climax of the Ironman calendar and this city’s baptism into the world of triathlon.
Casares, a member of the country’s national triathlon team, is coming off a creditable performance in last month’s World Triathlon Cup in Miyazaki, Japan and is tipped to give Satar Salem a run for the P150,000 winner’s prize offered by Mayor Lucilo Bayron.
Over 1,200 triathletes, including entries from 25 foreign countries, are entered in the inaugural Ironman competition in Puerto Princesa, which Bayron hopes would become the country’s next sports tourism capital.
Bayron, who took over the city’s reins as mayor from long-time mayor and now Rep. Edward Hagedorn, said the city pulled out all stops in the preparation for the race.
“The city is ready,” he said as he assured participants that the race would be safe for competitors and spectators. “If we can hold this Ironman race forever in the city, why not?” he told Friday’s press conference attended by Sunrise Events president and CEO Princess Galura, Casares, SEA Games gold medalists Claire Adorna and Casares, top Filipino age-grouper Mervin Santiago and Aless Castaneda, the fastest Filipina finisher in the Ironman 70.3 World Championship in St. George, Utah.
Galura said the year 2022 had been a fruitful year for Ironman triathlon after a two-year hiatus caused by the Covid 19 pandemic.
“This inaugural race in Puerto Princes is a fitting climax to the year,” she said.
Adorna, still recovering from an injury, is competing in her favorite swim leg in the all-women’s relay for the AFP team, which is favored along with the Go for Gold lineup. Castaneda is tipped to win the P150,000 top prize in the women’s category and is wary of the competition expected from her friend Jackie Cruz.
The triathletes will swim 1.9 kms off the Puerto Princes Baywalk, bike for 90 kms to the south of the city and run 21 km around the city center, ending at the Ramon V. Mitra Jr. Sports Complex. City officials assured participants that the water off the Baywalk would be safe and clean with the water treatment efforts ” at the highest standard.”
The swim course is relatively easy, “even for beginners” and the current is very manageable, according to veteran triathlete and coach Julian Valencia, who tested the swim course on Thursday.
The three-loop bike course is rolling and a bit jarring in some parts, but it is relatively flat, said veteran coach Jojo “Jomac” Macalintal, who sampled the route on Friday along with members of his Team Trimac. “It will be a fast race,” predicted Casares, who will be competing in his first 70.3 distance after racing mostly in the shorter standard (Olympic) distance.
To transition to the longer distance, Casares said he had to adjust his nutrition and hydration and increase his mileage in cycling and running.
Casares, born to a Spanish father and a Filipino mother from Bulacan, was recruited to the national pool in 2018 and immediately produced results in the 2019 Southeast Asian Games, winning the gold in the mixed relay event in Subic.
Santiago, the fastest Filipino finisher in last month’s World Ironman Championship in Kona, Hawaii, is a dark horse in the field, but he said he doesn’t expect to win the overall title.
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