Freeman Cebu Sports

The amazing Ernie H.

ALLEZ - ALLEZ By Jose Vicente Araneta -
There is a saying from the barrio that states, "old carabao eat young grass." Well, in the case of Ernie Hortaleza and Cesar "Ponga" Labramonte, these guys not only devoured the competition of younger riders, they also spat them out, with all due respect to all herbivores out there.

Hortaleza was a guest rider for team Social Climbers (can atty. Jong Sepulveda please explain why they call themselves as such?) in this years Tour ni Frank, who won the individual and team championships courtesy of the strong riding of Hortaleza.

Hortaleza, a 44-year old executive rider from Manila, bested two teenagers, Junboy Amago of Carigara Bikers and Tomcat Sports and John Paul Baco, an upcoming rider from Lapu-Lapu City. At the awarding ceremony, Hortaleza was heard to say, "Hey, this could be my kids!" as he looked at the two elfin runners-up, whose age probably reminded him of his own 19-year old back in Manila.

Hortaleza is a full time businessperson whose family owns a chain of beauty salons around the country called Hortaleza Beauty Salon. They also are a pioneer in the wholesale and retail of beauty products. Probably not contented with that, he opened his own brand at SM Megamall a few years ago called, "Color My Hair". He is also into importing personal care products with his company called Hantrade Philippines.

But five years ago, Ernie was anything but a cyclist. He was a golfer (one digit handicap) and proudly won a few tournaments. He was also a RC buff and went to Kyosho, China, as a part of an 8-man RP team that raced there.

But a back problem changed all that. An obese 190lb in a 5'10" frame, he was asked to choose between back surgery or lose weight. He chose the second option and of course, cycling. These days, Ernie has a waistline of 30, weights around 160lb and a power to weight ratio that's off the charts. And because of that, he has won a lot of races.

I raced against Ernie last year in Ormoc and the I couldn't hold a candle to the guy much older than me. Which was quite embarrassing, because I thought I was a better rider in the 40-50 cat. How wrong I was (and Sasay Salazar)!!! In that race, Ernie beat ex-pros Boy Pagnanawon and Elpidio Untalan of the top executive team in Manila, Excellent Noodles. He also qualified for the FedEx Tour last year, but did not join the 10-day race last summer.

Ponga, on the other hand, is a former coach of the RP team and the personal coach of Hortaleza, won both races (CAT C) in the TnF easily at the golden age of 50, with no hands!

Ironically, the executive bicycle-racing scene in Manila these days is probably bigger than the professional racing scene, which is at the moment, unstable, at best. For these wealthy guys, coming here to race is just the same as going to Subic of Batnagas or Baguio for a bike race but with a different and definitely a friendlier, Cebuano, atmosphere.

Raymond See, a Bulakeno who brought his 5-man team, Roacka #1 Bikeshop, here, told me that the average expense per person for coming here is about 15,000 each!!! Team PLDT-DSL was also represented by Dondie Azarcon and Norberto Daa but both rode for Rocka #1 and Spark Kleen, respectively. Rolly Bicaldo, a US Air Force surgeon from NJ, also rode for Rocak #1, together with Mark Sanchez and Dennis Dionisio. Both See and Dionisio were here for the CCC II last November.

Also gracing the event were Alrland Macasieb, the VELLUM sponsored triathlete from NJ who got a silver meal in last years SEA Games. Lone woman participant and RT Triathlon team member Ani de Leon, who rides for DAVID SALON, was also in the thick of things. Ani is a writer for "SIKLISTA" magazine and is an advocate of womens right here in the Philippines.

And finally, 3 kids from Carigara Leyte, JunBoy Amago, Tots Tonido and Leo Dagalea, almost came close to winning the title. While these boys didn't have the carbon and titanium bikes that was in abundance last weekend, they showed that it's not the machine but the talent that makes the machine go. Bravo for these guys and their manager, Justine.

Frank Gatdula, the TnF sponsor, is planning something big next year, an executive race in region 7. I hope that we can realize that.











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