The why, what, when, and how of Cebu’s revised bike course

By Kaye Lopez | Lead photo by Tristan Tamayo| Bike course map courtesy of Regent Aguila Ironman 70.3 Asia-Pacific Championship

Less than a month ago, Sunrise Events founder Fred Uytengsu finally released an official statement, reassuring Regent Aguila Ironman 70.3 Asia-Pacific Championship 2018 participants that the half-distance race on Aug. 5 is a go. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief after Sunrise managed to secure support and approval for this year’s modified bike course from the cities of Lapu-Lapu and Mandaue 

Balancing Act

“While we maintain the safety of our participants as our utmost priority, we also consider the well-being of the people of Cebu and any possible inconveniences that the event may cause,” said Uytengsu in the official statement. But thanks to the cooperation between the organizers and the local government units and government agencies concerned, race director Neville Manaois confirmed that “the route has been approved already” and that the “safety of the athletes and spectators has always been the primary concern.”

Modified “Looping City Course”

Because of the revisions made to the tried-and-tested bike route that most of us are familiar with, apart from a visual representation of the new course map uploaded on the official website, majority of participants will be going into the bike leg blind. Most non-Cebu-based triathletes will not have the luxury of scheduling a reconnaissance ride to try out the course themselves, at least not until race weekend when organizers usually schedule a couple of bike course check rides for participants. So we thought the next best thing would be to gather intel straight from the source. In this feature, race director Manaois is more than willing to shed some light on this new development.

It’s a city course, meaning there will be a lot of people, establishments, homes, and buildings. Roads will be a bit narrower than last year, and there will be lots of turns that will require some handling skills

Pros and Cons

“The bike route in previous years utilized the M loop format, majority of which was in SRP (South Road Properties—the long highway after the tunnel), says Manaois. “It made for a fast, scenic, flat race course, with changing wind and weather conditions.  This year it will be a three-loop course, traversing two cities in Cebu: Lapu-Lapu and Mandaue. It’s a city course, meaning there will be a lot of people, establishments, homes, and buildings. Roads will be a bit narrower than last year, and there will be lots of turns that will require some handling skills.”

In a nutshell, while the previous years’ long and flat bike course would be much faster due to less loops, this year’s course still has the potential to be a fast one. As an added advantage, the shorter loop will also be easier to manage, have less variability in wind conditions, and will have lots of spectators constantly cheering the participants on throughout the bike leg. Participants will also get to see certain parts of Lapu-Lapu and Mandaue that most probably don’t get to appreciate when they visit Cebu.        

Road Safety and Crowd Control

Participants can find comfort that full road closure will still be implemented along the bike course on race day. According to Manaois, “the course is wide enough to accommodate the participants and was designed to have a one-way flow in narrow areas of the city.” But as with any city course, he expects a lot of spectators watching on the roads. For everyone’s safety, Manaois mentioned that “the cities of Lapu-Lapu and Mandaue together with the province of Cebu, have been meeting regularly to ensure crowd control.”

According to Manaois, “the course is wide enough to accommodate the participants and was designed to have a one-way flow in narrow areas of the city”

But still, he reminds everyone to exercise extreme caution and to be mindful of their surroundings at all times. With regard to bike setup, it will still depend primarily on what the athlete is comfortable with but there will definitely be long enough sections where aerobars can be used as well as sections where it’s best to stay on the handlebars due to a series of turns. Disc wheels are still allowed.

Overcrowding, Drafting, and Timing

With this year’s participants riding on narrower roads, concerns about overcrowding need to be addressed and the organizers have planned for this accordingly. Some set in place will be the rolling start release, seeding the participants in the swim start, as well as an earlier swim start for the pros and elite athletes. 

Even with these measures, it will still be nearly impossible to guarantee that participants bunching up together at certain sections can be prevented. This will definitely affect official decisions made on drafting and other unsportsmanlike conduct. Manaois firmly states that, “race officials will exercise enough caution but will still be firm in implementing rules. Officials will be able to identify those who are deliberately breaking the rules.” 

With this year’s participants riding on narrower roads, concerns about overcrowding need to be addressed and the organizers have planned for this accordingly. Some set in place will be the rolling start release, seeding the participants in the swim start, as well as an earlier swim start for the pros and elite athletes

With regard to timing issues and participants knowingly or unknowingly missing loops, Manaois said that they will still apply their usual timing system setup, with timing mats spread out along the course to monitor the participants. Ample signs will also be deployed along the course to guide the participants and more details will be released on the athlete information guide soon. But as always, participants are responsible for counting their own loops and making sure they complete each loop three times.

The Future of Ironman in Cebu

For a brief moment there, participants (myself included) were faced by the heart-breaking possibility of not having a bike course to ride on this year, or worse, the race being canceled altogether.  The organizers believe that Cebu has all the ingredients needed to stage a world-class Ironman event: an international airport, wide range of hotel accommodations, and infrastructure. But with the recent modifications made on the bike route, they have yet to see how well it will be received by the participants.