Alleycats, drag races, urban criteriums, uphill races. These are competitions that are usually organized to cater to the re-emergence of the fixed-gear culture. Rarely do we see track bikes running a proper track where cyclists can ride and race safely without obstructions, vehicles, and potholes. But once every blue moon, we also get a chance to ride the only cycling track in the Philippines: the Amoranto Velodrome.
PhilCycling conducted a Time Trial event last May at the Amoranto Velodrome where amateur riders were given a chance to show their skills and compete in an individual pursuit in the track. The winners of each category were then selected to join the national training pool based on their times and athlete criteria of national team head coaches.
Although try-outs like these are held from time to time, it is not enough for everybody to participate. One participant said that he joined the event just to have the chance to experience riding around the track. On regular days, cyclists are not even allowed to use the velodrome to give way to runners. The track usually opens for cyclists around noon which isn't a convenient time to ride considering the very hot and dry weather here in the Philippines.
In our last year's tour in Japan, we were fortunate enough to get invited to take part in their monthly amateur track weekend. Cyclists, both young and old, rode around the Kawasaki Velodrome and had different races the entire day. The Kawasaki Urban Bank is just one of the 70 velodromes in Japan. Such experience will make one realize how deprived the cyclists in the Philippines are.
The Amoranto Velodrome is the only velodrome in the country, and due to the neglect of the sports commission and the government, it is very rare that it is used as a cycling facility. The last time it was patched-up was a few years back, some cute band-aid solution that does not address the underlying issues.
Cycling is definitely gaining momentum in the Philippines. Numerous bike shops are opening locally, and purchasing track bikes and components from these merchants can be done at a click of a button. Groups and organizations have been popping-up, and a number of local cycling blogs are starting to bloom. We just hope that in our lifetime we can see this velodrome be transformed into a place where cyclists can ride freely, train regularly, and be used to exploit the exceptional potential of our promising young athletes.