Cycling seems like a very tame sport until you add mountains to the mix. Downhill mountain biking is not your average sport because it demands the skillful navigating of rugged, uneven terrain made of roots, rocks, and hard dirt; all while speeding down as fast as the mind can contain.
A wrong move, a simple snap out of one’s mental focus can be a great error. Even the milliseconds count. And sometimes it’s just a fraction of a second that separates that winning moment from the rest of the hopeful victors in this individually timed race.
Representing and advocating a sport that most people are still unfamiliar with is one Bans Mendoza. In 2013, he became the first Filipino rider to enter the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships in South Africa. He finished sixth overall and against more internationally seasoned competitors. “Pag finish ko, naramdaman ko yung panghihinayang, dahil alam ko na mas maganda pa sana yung pwesto. Pero nakakatuwa na rin kasi finally nakapag world champs din. Sana dati ko pa ito ginawa,” shared Mendoza.
This year Mendoza again joined the competition when it was held in Hafjell, Norway. Unfortunately, a combination of injury and a sudden downpour (thanks to Norway’s unpredictable weather) saw him finish only 18th overall. “Siyempre nakakahinayang. But there’s nothing to be ashamed of. I can try again next year,” he said, shrugging it off. The local cycling community turned the hashtag ‘laBANSpilipinas’ into ‘laBANSpadin’ in preparation for next year. His international competitors were impressed, saying it is nice to see diversity in the sport; that he performed smooth jumps; that he was fast; that he had a shot at winning. “That is how racing is. You have to push yourself, go beyond your limits. You pour your heart into every pedal, every turn, every control the handle bar resists at that moment where it all counts. But it’s only either you win or lose,” he said.
Sense of adventure
Before Mendoza got interested in downhill mountain biking, as with the rest of the country, he was into basketball and skateboarding. “It started out as a hobby, tapos may mga nang-engganyo mag-race. After that first race, tuloy tuloy na,” he said.
Naturally, if you’re planning on getting into race scene, the equipment is important. Know which bike is better suited for you depending on the type of races that interest you. According to Mendoza, mountain bikes come in different forms: for cross country, all mountain, and downhill. “These are the disciplines of the sport. Cross country is more on endurance and skill tapos mag-start kayo sabay-sabay kayo ng kalaban mo. Then downhill is more on speed, power, and skill…and individual timed run siya,” he explained.
He advises that if you do want to get into the sport professionally, invest in the equipment. A good bike will help you hone your skills and will be reliable when you are after good results. The proper equipment and gear will also protect you when you take falls because “you have to be prepared to fall,” said Mendoza. On the other hand, if you’re just a casual cycling fan who’s just in it for the fun and exercise, a regular bike will do.
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