The Philippines’ ‘queen of the trails’, Ariana Evangelista, is the first Filipina to represent the country at the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships in Les Gets, France.
Despite the feat that stoked national pride, Evangelista went solo in France. With no support crew, a companion to help her read the track, or even a mechanic to make sure her bike was running smoothly on D-Day, Ariana was left to fend for herself. to find the best way to participate in the race for the rainbow jersey.
“I had never ridden anything like that in the Philippines,” biker Ilongga told Rappler in an interview a week after her world championships stint in France.
Les Gets is a mountain village and ski resort known for its cycle paths. Its track is a regular destination during World Cup season, the mountain bike racing series sanctioned by the Union Cycliste Internationale, cycling’s world governing body.
This year, Les Gets hosted the downhill and cross country world championships.
“It was actually pretty scary and I’m used to doing track reads where I have someone with me who can catch me if I try a section,” Evangelista said, sharing her experience. The Les Gets piste features challenging climbs, technical descents, root and rock sections – all unknown to Evangelista.
Because it’s a technical track, going full throttle from the start requires strategy, a good choice of lines, as well as the advantage of being in front on the starting line. Because she has the fewest UCI points, Ariana started last.
For the short track, Ariana only completed four of the nine laps. In the Olympic cross country, the main event, she was unable to complete five laps, retiring from the race after completing two laps.
“I already expected that,” Ariana admitted.
Along with unfamiliarity with the trail, Evangelista also had to deal with lack of support. “Being just a one man team sucks in a way, but I learned the hard way. I deal with it. [with] the given opportunity. Of course, there is no point in wishful thinking,” she said.
Evangelista still had reason to be grateful despite the odds against her. On the one hand, the spectators of the event also cheered her on.
“When I was running, I didn’t feel alone, or I didn’t feel so left out, because everyone was really supporting everyone,” she said. “And it’s funny because they were really surprised there was a Filipino race.”
Evangelista never had a clue that she would compete in such a prestigious competition, especially after a particularly difficult year.
“I didn’t expect – like a year ago – to be able to join the world championships,” she said. “The past year has been very difficult. I went through a roller coaster of emotions.
When asked to elaborate, Evangelista only alluded to the person managing his career.
“We really have different perspectives and the other person was…controlling or selfish in a way that wasn’t healthy for my career. And when I had the opportunity to leave, I took it unknowingly – without any security for myself,” she said.
With a new perspective and her newfound independence, Evangelista said she enjoys cycling now more than ever in her 14-year career. The Les Gets competition became a kind of light at the end of a dark period in the athlete’s personal and professional life.
After a lackluster performance at the 2021 Southeast Asian Games and contracting COVID-19 earlier this year, Evangelista picked up a dramatic win in Cebu at the national championships in June, defending his title for the fifth straight year.
Since then, she’s only had two months to prepare for the ride of her life, not knowing if she could even go.
“I wasn’t sure if I would go because the funding was really hard to get,” she recalls. “So I said to myself: I’m going to prepare, whether I can go or not because if I go, at least I’m ready, and if I couldn’t go, at least I’m still a good level.” fitness level.”
Workouts typically take her to Timberland Heights where she does her high intensity training, Boso-Boso and Sierra Madre for long hikes with lots of uphills, and the gym where she does her strength and conditioning training. to increase the power of the bike.
It was during the same month of the world championships that Evangelista obtained his French visa. Private sponsors, including Dan’s/Trek Bikes Philippines and Nitto Tire, helped pay for his airfare, accommodation and transportation. She arrived in France on August 23, just five days before the race.
The future of cycling
After a week off the bike, Evangelista is now ready to train specifically for future races. If she meets the right people and gets enough funding, she will compete in the entire UCI World Cup season.
She had discussed some changes to her training schedule with her Spanish coach Javier Sola. They are looking at longer intensity exercises and gym time, and they still need to double work on her skills and find high altitude areas to train in, she said.
All of these plans will prepare her so that in 2023 she will get the points, training and experience needed to qualify for the Paris Olympics in 2024. “I still want to be an Olympian,” Evangelista said while speaking. sponsors and the next World Cup season.
But as his latest attempt abroad reveals, it’s not just the athlete that needs to improve, but the level of support that Filipino cycling gives to the athletes.
“Overall, I’m really grateful that I did it…. It’s something I want to share [with] my fellow Filipinos who also yearn to follow the path I have walked,” Ariana shared. “There are so many talented Filipino cyclists who don’t just have the opportunity to show off their skills.”
Changing the landscape for future Filipino cyclists is a daunting task. But as Ariana would say, it all starts from the heart.
“It’s a great sport. It really changed my life. And [it] would be great to see [more] Filipinos are going through the same thing too. – Rappler.com