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Phl riders to face new pro team

The Integrated Cycling Federation of the Philippines is looking to organize an exhibition race featuring the members of the national team against the new professional squad — Victoria Sports Cycling Team.

PhilCycling president Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino broached the idea, saying that he wants the national riders to test their mettle against the powerhouse Victoria squad that is powered by Filipino and Portuguese stalwarts.

Tolentino said the “bike-off” will not only push the national riders to their limit but will also give them elite competition in preparation for the 32nd Southeast Asian Games in Cambodia this May.

Victoria has what it takes to give the national riders a good fight.

Aside from local cyclists like Pako Ochoa, Jhay Oconer, Kelvin Mendoza, Luis Krog, Ean Cajucom, Daniel Cariño, and Jerry Aquino, the country’s latest professional team will be bannered by Portuguese riders in Marcio Barbosa and Pedro Paulinho as well as World Tour campaigners Jose Mendes and Andre Cardoso.

Mendes is a two-time Portuguese national champion while Cardoso is a former World Tour rider for Trek Segafredo.

Aside from competing in Union Cycliste Internationale races, the team also wants to contribute to the “meteoric rise of the popularity of biking in the Philippines.”

Victoria is owned by New San Jose Builders and has the support of San Miguel Corporation, Banco de Oro, SM, Grab Philippines, and Mr. Kevin Wong with Gruppo Innovare Corporation Specialized Philippines, Neo Zigma Cycle Corporation-Shimano and PRO, Cofides Competicao, Cebu Pacific, Rudy Project, Manuel L. Quezon University, Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar, VS Hotel and Schroeder’s Deli as major backers.

“We are extremely grateful to all companies who share our vision,” Ochoa, who also acts as the team’s representative, said.

“We are also thankful to those who believe that we can go beyond making cycling more popular – that we can raise the level of cycling and make it a part of our culture, as it is in other parts of the world where the needs and rights of the bikers are respected.”

Tolentino, also the Philippine Olympic Committee president, said he is looking forward to seeing the national squad facing the members of the new team in an ultimate showdown.

“When they return to the Philippines, maybe next month, let’s have a bike-off between them and the national team. The races will be criterium and road,” Tolentino said.

“We’re hoping to do it somewhere where there is no traffic.”

Victoria sports director Michael Isidoro said he is eager to help raise the quality of cycling here in the Philippines and open to the idea of a bike-off with the national team.

“Our main goal is to help raise the quality of riders here in the Philippines. If we can help improve and develop, I think it is a good idea to help make a good team,” Isidoro said.

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