Rising cyclists John Aguja, Thirdy Mana-ay shine brightest in national championships | Inquirer Sports

Rising cyclists John Aguja, Thirdy Mana-ay shine brightest in national championships

/ 03:29 PM July 29, 2023

national cycling

Go For Gold’s John Andre Aguja (left) and Thirdy Mana-ay after winning at the recent MTB national championships in Danao City.

MANILA, Philippines-John Andre Aguja has lost count of the sum of races that he crossed the finish line ahead of his rivals.

Thirdy Mana-ay already won two in a blossoming career that can eventually lead to multiple victories in the future that he might not remember all as well.


Aguja and Mana-ay recently topped their respective contests at the 2023 Philippine National MTB XCO/XCE Championships while sharing something in common—both rising talents are bred and honed in the developmental pool of the Go For Gold Cycling Team.


“Madami na akong naipanalong karera, hindi ko na mabilang (I’ve lost count of all the races I’ve won),” said the 17-year-old Aguja after asserting his mastery in the mountain bike cross country olympics (XCO) men’s junior category at the national championships held in Danao City.

Aguja, who sharpened his exceptional riding skills on the hilly areas near his hometown Iriga City in Camarines Sur, ruled that 9.3-kilometer race of mostly muddy terrain in 49 minutes and 23.27 seconds, more than a minute ahead of his closest pursuer in a field of 65 riders.

The incoming Grade 12 from University of St. Anthony is being molded into a future mountain bike standout by Go For Gold, which saw a gem in Aguja after the latter raised the champion’s trophy in the junior category of the Philippine Cycling Festival last year in Clark, Pampanga.

“I’m very happy with the results of the race. Our two young riders have proven what we have long believed, that they are the bright future of mountain biking in the Philippines,” said Go For Gold founder Jeremy Go.

“We will continue to go around the whole country to look for young talented athletes and help them rise to the world stage,” added Go.

Go For Gold is a sports development program which supports not only Filipino cyclists but other athletes and teams competing in various sports as well.


The Go For Gold Cycling Team recently swept the medal podium of the PhilCycling National Championships for Road with Jonel Carcueva leading the squad to a historic 1-2-3 finish in the men’s elite road race along with teammates Jericho Lucero and Jaypee Olarte.

According to Go For Gold Cycling Team head coach Ednalyn Hualda, the record-setting victory was achieved primarily through hard work and teamwork.

“Maliit pa lang ako mahilig na ako mag-bike pero ang unang sabak ko sa karera ay noong 2017. Doon ako nagsimulang manalo ng maraming karera at unti-unting nabubuo ang pangarap ko manalo at maging magaling na siklista sa mga international races,” said Aguja.

(I got into biking at a very young age but my first race was back in 2007. That’s when I started to win a lot of races and dreamed of becoming a great cyclist in hopes of winning international races.)

The son of school teachers assigned in Libmanan, Camarines Sur already has two international titles under his belt—the 2023 Thailand Mountain Bike Cup 1 and the 2023 Coupe de Japon MTB Yawatahama in Japan.

“Talagang focus ako sa training para lalong gumaling sa karera. Pangarap ko magkaroon pa ng mas maraming medalya para sa ating bansa sa mga international races,” said Aguja.

(I want to continue to improve my skills in racing that’s why I’m really focused during training. My goal is to win more medals in international races for our country.)

Mana-ay has the same calling as Aguja and although he doesn’t have a vast collection of medals and trophies yet, the 15-year-old hopes to become the cycling pride of his birthplace Santa Barbara in Iloilo someday.

The Grade 10 student from Santa Barbara National Comprehensive High School showed that he’s on track after winning the XCO youth boys 15-16 category in a 6.2-km route of two laps made doubly grueling by the sluggish course.

Mana-ay seized victory hands-down, crossing the line solo with a clocking of 30 minutes and 5.37 seconds, more than two minutes before two of his fiercest opponents arrived.

“Napakahirap dahil madulas at maputik. Nagkaroon ako ng magandang pagkakataon sa second lap at hindi ko na binitawan,” said Mana-ay, who ruled the youth 13-14 category in the national championships last year.

(It was a tough race because it was slippery and muddy. I saw a great opportunity to pull away in the second lap and I took it.)

But what made him extra special at the 2022 national championships was finishing second overall in the 15-16 category despite being only 14 years old that caught the attention of mountain bike specialists.

Mana-ay was taken under the wings of the Go For Gold Cycling Team three months ago with high hopes that he could race internationally for the first time in his career and show the stern stuff he’s made of even on foreign soil.

“Pangarap ko talagang maging malakas na siklista at manalo sa malalaking karera sa ibang bansa. Alam ko na mararating ko iyan sa tiyaga sa training at sa tulong ng Go For Gold,” said Mana-ay, who sees Aguja as one of his idols.

(I just really want to be a strong cyclist and win big races in different country. I know I can achieve my goal as long as I continue to work hard in training and with the help of Go For Gold.)

Your subscription could not be saved. Please try again.
Your subscription has been successful.

Subscribe to our daily newsletter

By providing an email address. I agree to the Terms of Use and acknowledge that I have read the Privacy Policy.

Overall, Go For Gold brought home three golds, one silver and a bronze from the MTB national championships where Aguja and Mana-ay shone, paving for them a brighter road ahead.


Go For Gold pulls off historic win in national cycling championships

Go for Gold eyes stronger finish in Ronda Pilipinas 2022

TAGS: Cycling

© Copyright 1997-2024 INQUIRER.net | All Rights Reserved

We use cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. By continuing, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. To find out more, please click this link.