True Grit: Cycling Champ Ildefonso Vizmanos
Cycling champ Ildefonso Vizmanos is a living testimony to the value of determination on the road to success. Popularly known as “Mang Popoy”, Ildefonso Vizmanos is one of the famous cyclists of his generation. Many years may have passed, but this living legend is a reminder that grit separates an athlete from a champion.
Growing up in Cavite, he learned to ride a bike using his father’s bicycle. Like most of the champions from the golden age of Philippine cycling, Vizmanos started as a paperboy then shifted his career to amateur cycling.
He began his journey as the youngest rider training in Luneta. Starting as spectator who would count the number of cyclists practicing in the park, he was invited later on to tour with a group. But as a beginner, he was left behind and needed to be pulled with a rope.
Since then, he trained hard and promised himself not to be left out again. “Walang hindi magiging champion basta matiyaga ka [No one can be a champion without perseverance],” he says.
With the right attitude, he became one of the most respected cyclists in the country. He was the team captain of Patria Bikes where he won championship battles in a 10,000 meter and 25 lap races against the likes of Manuel Reynante and Cornelio Padilla Jr. at the oval of Rizal Memorial Stadium. He was also a gold medalist in local events for four and 12 laps as well as in a 1,000 meter race where he marked a 1 minute and 10 seconds finish.
Mang Popoy also led the Leelin Batteries along with teammate Madiam Villamor at the tartan track at the Marikina oval for the Manila Bay Bikeathon championship and founded the group Caloocan Cyclists.
The six-time Tour of Luzon Speed King also took part in international competitions around Asia, such as Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Hong Kong, and Japan both as player and coach for the Philippine Team.
The veteran shared that the titles under his belt are made from sweat and blood. “Ako, bago ako sumikat ang dami kong gasgas sa katawan. Bali [ang] balikat ko, putok ang ulo ko, [gasgas] ang tuhod ko [I’ve been through a lot. I had a broken shoulder, head trauma, bruised knee],” he shares.
But for the former Palarong Pambansa NCR coach, all is worth it as he was able to share his experiences to the younger cyclists who also made it to the national team.
Hope for the future
Mang Popoy is saddened about the state of the cycling association after the limelight dimmed for fixed gear races.
“‘Di nila binibigyan ng halaga ‘yong fixed gear. Dahil ang fixed gear [may] siyam na medalya ‘yan, ang road race dalawa lang [They didn’t give priority to fixed gear who had nine medals while the road racers only had two],” he points out, emphasizing the country’s cycling medal count in the Asian Games. He also sympathizes with cyclists who are spending a lot on their bicycles but are not receiving enough cash prizes. But he’s still glad that there are a few competitions that provide big cash rewards. As a former track king, Vizmanos also hopes for the return of the Big League competitions where cyclists can compete for weekly matches for six months.
Pointers from Popoy
The 75 year-old rider shares that he’s thrilled on how younger individuals are starting to have passion for bicycling. However, he sees its present cost as a hindrance for many others to afford the sport. “Kung mahilig ka sa bisikleta, mag-ipon ka ng pera dahil ‘yun ang puhunan mo [If you like bikes, then better save money because that’s your investment],” he says.
When getting a bike, Mang Popoy emphasizes the importance of studying the hub gearing and frame size suited for the rider for better comfort and performance. He also encourages people to ride a bike when going to work because it’s good for the health and helps one save money.
Among the types of bicycles available at present, Mang Popoy still believes that fixed-wheel is the most efficient bike for short trips since it only needs a single speed chain ring and a break while stressing the importance of safety when riding such bike on the road.
Text: Joannah P. Villena | Photos: Ross James Derit | DOP: EJ Guevarra | Editor: Chad Simbajon