CYCLING patron and sailing head Ernesto “Judes” Echauz is optimistic the country’s road riders would surpass their past performances when they compete in the 31st Vietnam Southeast Asian Games in November.
“Yes, I believe we have a good chance of surpassing our gold (harvest) in the last SEA Games,” Echauz stressed in his first appearance at the Philippine Sportswriters Association online forum yesterday.
Filipino riders bagged three gold, four silver and four bronze medals in the 30th edition of the meet hosted by the country two years ago and Echauz expressed confidence they would do better in the Vietnamese capital of Hanoi.
“Our women alone, I believe, could win in the women’s individual and team time trial, the massed start and the criterium because I believe our racers are the best in Southeast Asia,” he said in the public sports program backed by the Philippine Amusements Gaming Corp., San Miguel Corp., Go for Gold, Braska Restaurant, Milo, Smart and Amelie Hotel.
“Our female riders are comparable to the best in Asia. I say that because they won in the Le Tour de Vietnam,” the Standard Insurance Group chairman said of the Standard Insurance-Navy squad bannered by Jermyn Prado that ruled the women’s individual time trial event in the 2019 SEA Games.
Echauz said the country’s riders also loom as top contenders in the men’s team trial and massed starts, assuming the core of the SI-Navy squad that dominated the 2020 edition of the LBC Ronda Pilipinas is kept intact for the Vietnam Games.
George Oconer led the SI-Navy riders in sweeping the team and individual honors in the cycling marathon.
“We believe that for purposes of team strategy it is important that all of your members should come from one team beforehand. Alam mo na kaagad kung sino ‘yung lead riders mo, sino ‘yung sprinters and domestiques,” he said. “Mahirap kung mayroon kang bagong makakasama.”
Learning from the lessons of the last SEA Games, he stressed that he would insist on this once the national road team is formed for the Vietnam games, adding the team’s riders are familiar with the Hanoi racing terrain, having competed there before.
Although the members of the national cycling team have yet to be announced, Echauz said he is working on the assumption that “our men’s and women’s teams will be sent to the SEA Games.”
He said that both the SI-Navy men’s and road squads had been training for the last two months despite the COVID-19 pandemic, with the men’s squad based in Naic, Cavite and the women’s squad at the Subic Bay Freeport Zone.
“Our riders are provided with top-of-the-line equipment, including power meters and Swift software for their physical conditioning,” he said. “Our program is such that they will very competitive in Vietnam.”
As for the duathlon events, he said male duathletes Joey delos Reyes, a 30th SEA Games silver medalist, and Emmanuel Commendador and female counterpart Mary Pauline Fornea, all SI-Navy team members, are also training hard for the Vietnam SEA Games.