By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
THREE thousand miles in nine days, that is what a group of groundbreaking cyclists representing the Philippines hopes to accomplish as it takes part later this year in one of the world’s most respected and longest-running ultra-endurance events — the Race Across America (RAAM).
Backed by David’s Salon and supported by TaskUs, a global customer care solutions company, cyclists Colin Pearson and his wife, Carmela, Vanessa Bandoy Hans, and Guillaume d’Aboville will make history as they become the first team from Southeast Asia to compete in the RAAM, which will be held in June, in the race’s more than three-decade history.
Apart from testing their abilities and limits as athletes, Team David’s Salon is competing in RAAM to inspire other people to pursue their own passions in sport and life, and to focus the spotlight on the charity it is supporting — the France-Philippines United Action Foundation, which is involved in disaster rehabilitation in Northern Cebu.
Race Across America starts at Oceanside, California, and ends in Annapolis, Maryland. The race will take cyclists across 12 states, crossing four rivers (the Colorado, Mississippi, Missouri, and Ohio) and traversing three major mountain ranges (the Sierra, Rocky, and Appalachian mountains), on their way to the finish line. It is open to amateur and professional racers.
Team David’s Salon is competing in the four-person relay. Other race categories are solo, two-, and eight-person relay teams.
Through the years, RAAM has proven itself to be an effective avenue to raise awareness and money for the racers’ chosen charities.
As per the official site of Race Across America, racers have raised over $2 million per year over the past five years.
The members of Team David’s Salon, who are all good friends, decided to band together to take on the challenge, recognizing the significance of being the first from the Philippines, or Southeast Asia for that matter, to race in the RAAM. But were quick to say that beating others to it was not the primary reason for them joining.
“We realize that this is groundbreaking. However, this isn’t the reason why we joined. It just so happened that no one from Southeast Asia did it before us. We just like undertaking crazy cycling challenges. As of now, we still are the only ones in the Philippines competing. Even if it is major, we clearly are the underdog and hope to place well to prove that wherever you are from, anything is possible,” said Ms. Hans, the youngest in the group at 27, said in an e-mail correspondence with BusinessWorld.
Currently the group is right in the middle of training, which is proving to be challenging since all the members have full-time jobs.
“We all have full-time jobs which makes training difficult. We need to focus on both endurance and speed. The challenge will be to repeat fast-paced riding over several days. For now we have been training as a group over the weekend and focus on indoor training on weekdays,” Ms. Pearson, 35, said.
Aside from training, the team is also building a support crew that includes David’s Salon Chief Executive Officer and President David Charlton, which will accompany it in facing the RAAM challenge.
“Once we registered, the idea that we would actually do this started sinking in. More than just putting in the training, it is huge production. We need to sort out logistics but also find the right people for the support crew which will be an important component in this endeavor. This is major production!” said Mr. Pearson, 46.
Being a relay race, they being good friends helps a lot said the team members, while also highlighting some of their strengths as members of the group.
Fifty-eight-year-old Frenchman d’Aboville and Mr. Pearson, a British national who has lived in Asia for 17 years, said their mental strength should help the team, especially during tough situations, as well as their skills in fixing bikes during the course of the race.
Ms. Hans said her years of racing and jovial disposition are the things she brings to the team, while Ms. Pearson believes her extensive long-distance cycling background could make a difference.
All four also touted cycling’s ability to bring people together and to inspire.
“Cycling has no age or gender boundaries. We truly believe that this is what our team stands for as we represent four different decades (Vany in her 20s, Mela 30s, Colin 40s, and Guillaume 50s) and of course two women and two men. Cycling is a good conduit for promoting diversity as we met through it even though we come through different walks of life and might have never met if it wasn’t for cycling,” Ms. Pearson said.
FINDING SOMETHING IN COMMON
Identifying with Team David’s Salon’s thrust of pursuing one’s passion with grit and determination, TaskUs said it did not hesitate to be part of the team’s journey when it was presented the opportunity to come onboard.
“As a company, we have always been on the lookout for local talents that we can support who show the same grit and determination as a start-up — whether it be in cycling, fashion, or street art,” said Rey Salazar, Jr., TaskUs chief of staff, in another e-mail correspondence.
“To come out of left field and find yourself toe-to-toe with the world’s best is a story that deeply resonates with us. We started with five people in an office above a vulcanizing shop. Eight years and some heartaches later, we’re at 8,000 employees in the Philippines alone. Team David’s Salon is facing the same challenge and we’re more than happy to do our part in building a fan base to cheer them on,” added Mr. Salazar, whose group will be in charge of documenting the group’s journey, share it, and gather social media support for the team.
“Both TaskUs and David’s Salon are a major part of this challenge: we don’t think this would have been possible without them. Their support as far as providing visibility for the team and our charity efforts with the France-Philippines United Action Foundation, as well as in terms of logistics and providing accommodation and transportation, is absolutely critical,” Ms. Hans said of their main supporters.
Notwithstanding the tough challenge ahead of it in the Race Across America, Team David’s Salon said it is determined to see it through.
“We can all agree that what we look forward to finishing this together in good spirits. We already received a lot of messages of encouragement from Filipinos both in the Philippines and abroad. The morale support we have been getting has been overwhelming,” the Pearsons said.
But above all, Team David’s Salon is hoping that people get to take cue from the “life lesson” the journey it is about to undertake entails.
“We hope this will inspire more people to pursue their passion in life and take on whatever challenge is ahead of them,” Mr. d’Aboville said.
Race Across America races roll off on June 13 and 17.