Cebu’s chance to host Ironman race again depends on fixing potholes

By: Dale G. Rosal, Jose Santino S. Bunachita August 05,2014 - 08:40 AM

Caroline Steffen of Switzerland, an Ironman 2014 Champion participated in a Gawad Kalinga project by painting houses. With them is Wilfred Steven Uytengso of Sunrise Events Inc. and Alaska Milk Corp in Barangay Ticad Bantayan Island.(CDN PHOTO/LITO TECSON)

After a grueling race on Sunday, they had the energy to carry bags of cement, paint walls and play with children.

Several champion athletes and organizers of the Ironman 70.3 flew to Bantayan Island yesterday to break ground for 25 houses being built for typhoon Yolanda survivors in barangay Ticad, Bantayan town.

The partnership with Gawad Kalinga gives the athletes one more reason to return to Cebu: they now have an Ironman 70.3 Avenue and village.

Whether the international triathlon will let Cebu host its fourth competition in 2015 will depend on how many potholes remain in a national road in Cebu City.

“Yes, (we want it) in Cebu. But the bike course is still not of international standard. We have to get it to international standards,” said Geoff Meyer, CEO of Ironman Asia Pacific.

He described the road condition as “borderline” acceptable.

“We’re having really good talks with the government at the moment. We would love to stay in Cebu. It’s a great location, the athletes love it. But we can’t jeopardize the safety of the athletes with the current road structure,” he said.

“The running course and swimming course are fantastic. If we get the right bike course, the event is one of the jewels in the international calendar,” Meyer said.

DISAPPOINTMENT

His Philippine counterpart was more blunt about their disappointment with the Department of Public of Works and Highways (DPWH), whose promise to fix road cracks and holes by mid-July didn’t happen.

This forced organizers to adjust the length of the 90-kilometer bike course, adding loops in safer portions of the South Coastal Road near Talisay City and avoiding a problematic section of S. Osmeña Road in Cebu City, where the passage of trailer vans often scour the road.

Until the day before the Aug. 3 triathlon, DPWH workers were filling potholes with soil and loose asphalt.

Princess Galura, project director of Sunrise Events Inc., said she would meet with Cebu Gov. Hilario Davide III next week to start discussing prospects of next year’s race so planning can start earlier.

“We will discuss a lot of things including preparations for next year. Our number one topic will be the bike course’s condition. We have to address this problem once and for all,” She said.

“I’ve talked with Mark Tolentino, the Cebu provincial administrator, who told me DPWH roadworks will be completed on October this year. I just hope it will be completed because the race next year will be affected,” she said.

“Ang mahirap lang sa DPWH sinabi nila last month matatapos na daw yung road construction but we were really disappointed by them because they were not accurate.

I understand that road construction was important because many big events will happen in Cebu next year. Sana nga lang naging accurate sila sa kanilang timeline.

She thanked the agency for their help in fixing the damaged parts of the road for the race, even though it was a photo finish.

Organizers were assured of improved roads next year since the cities of Cebu, Mandaue and Lapu-Lapu are busy preparing for the Asia-Pacific Economic Conference (APEC) meetings in Cebu in 2015.

Ceremonial cement pouring on the marker of the Ironman Avenue of Gawad Kalinga in Barangay Ticad Bantayan. (L-R) Traithletes Belinda Granger of Australia ,Caroline Steffen of Switzerland, Wilfred Steven Uytengso of Sunrise Events Inc. and Alaska Milk Corp, Geoff Meyer World Triathlon Corporation Asia Pacific with this year’s champion Brent Mcmahon. (CDN PHOTO/LITO TECSON)

DANGEROUS

Rachel Ngo, a triathlete of the Omega Tri-team, said the potholes were an old complaint noticed by participants.

“The potholes were a common problem of us participants. We had to slow down to avoid getting our tires punctured and avoid damage to our carbon fiber wheel sets which most of us are using,”she said.

Sunday was her third time to join the Ironman Philippines 70.3.

She said she saw that potholes from SM City to Pier 3 were temporarily covered with asphalt.

“If Cebu wants to host the Ironman again next year and make sure participants keep coming back, the government has to prepare for it. It could have speeded up road repair because this has been a problem from the first Ironman race here,” she told Cebu Daily News.

BORDERLINE

While some veteran triathletes took the lumps and uneven road surfaces in stride as part of the harsh conditions expected of an Ironman challenge, organizers don’t want to take chances.

“It’s looking positive and we need to have those roads to be safe. Yesterday (last Sunday) was very much on the borderline,” said Meyer.

The DPWH had to rush asphalt overlays on potholes on S. Osmena Road after the private project contractor WT Construction said they could only fill them up with soil.

DPWH 7 Regional Director Ador Canlas said they finished asphalting the road portions on noon of Saturday. The triathlon opened at 6 a.m. the next day.

Last July 18, Cebu Daily News ran a photo of the road cracks on a portion of the road near SM City and Raddison Blu hotel.

The photo featured in CDN’s “Siloy is Watching” corner said “Potholes like this… are the pet peeve of motorcycle riders who stumble on cracks, and car owners whose rubber tires get a beating.

When will road rehabilitation reach this section?”

Yesterday, Canlas sent the paper a copy of photos of DPWH workers covering the holes with filling materials to show that they had responded.

He said they did patching work a day after the photo came out.

Asphalting was done a week before the Ironman 70.3 bike race, he said.

“It was a continuing effort. But it’s already done, we reacted immediately to the Siloy concern.

What’s important is that a day before the race everything was done,” Canlas told CDN by phone.

DELAYED BY CONTROVERSIES

He said road repairs there were delayed due to “controversies” involving Cebu City Hall.

City officials wanted to ensure business establishments along the road were heard before traffic rerouting plans were enforced.

Canlas also cited the case of 79 “missing trees” for the delay. The fire trees along the road’s center island were suddenly uprooted and hauled away in late April. The contractor and DPWH, whose earth-balling permit was still pending, denied any knowledge or hand in the trees’ disappearance.

WT Construction is facing a criminal charge of illegal destruction of trees in the prosecutors’ office.

“We had many challenges. There was a time we had no operations for one month,” Canlas told CDN.

“All of us were hoping everything would be okay by mid-July given normal conditions. What’s important is that we offered an alternate section,” Canlas added./Mayfair dela Cerna, USJR intern

Related Stories:

McMahon Cobra Ironman champ; Steffen wins again

McMahon, Steffen bag pro division titles

Potholes & bad roads? Triathletes loved them

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TAGS: DPWH, Gawad Kalinga, Ironman, Ironman Asia Pacific, triathlon

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