"Maui," the Philippines' greatest cyclist
November 2, 2012 12:43 am
By Eddie G. Alinea
MANILA, Nov. 1 — The time was 1965, the place, Cavite City.
Few people would have guessed they were looking at history when a skinny youngster wearing a round-shaped lilac 'grandma's' shade identified with John Lennon of the Popular Beatles singing group that was to become his trademark in his nearly two decades of racing career showed at the starting line of the Eighth National Amateur Cycling championship.
Manuel Reynante, then only 20 and also known in the cycling circle as "Maui," won that race and in the succeeding 1966 edition held the following year in San Pablo City.
In between those years though, Reynante, one of the greatest cyclists that came this shore and, probably, the most colorful and the sliest, made his mark, not only in the local cycling scene but in Asia as well when he topped the 648.27-kilometer open road race of the Second Asian Cycling Championships to become the first Filipino to stash away with the honor and remains as such up to this day.
Known as the First Asian Amateur Tour of Luzon, Reynante ruled the rugged 29.126-kilometer mountain climb from Burgos town in La Union to Baguio City to grab the overall leadership from the more illustrious teammate Cornelio Padilla Jr. and stayed there until the end of the five-nation event.
Reynante, along with 1964 Tokyo Olympian Padilla and Arturo Romeo, ended up in a rare gold-silver-bronze medal finishes and, likewise, gifted the host country the team competition championship as well as established the Philippines as best cycling nation in Asia in that era.
Reynante capped his amateur cycling career during the Fifth Asian Games in 1966 in Bangkok where he skippered an eighth-man national squad that included silver and bronze medalist Claudio Romeo, Rolando Guavez, Carlos Antenor, Arturo Romeo, Ben Evangelista, Carlos Reyes and Wilfredo Valdez.
The pride of a poor area in T. Molina Street in what is otherwise rich Barangay Alabang in Muntinlupa City anchored the team composed of Arturo Romeo, Reyes and Valdez to a fifth place finish in the 200-meter team time trial.
Reynante left this world exactly a week ago last October 26, ironically, while riding a bike to accompany son Llyod, the eighth of his productive union of 11 with wife Baby, to Mandaluyong City where a van was awaiting to drive them to Tarlac to participate in an elimination race for next year's Summer Spectacle.
At that time, Reynante was biking along East Service road, Barangay Sucat, with son Lloyd, also a champion rider, when he fell off his bike. Lloyd did not witnessed how his dad fell from the bike that was believed as a case of heart attack.
He actually had just came back in the country last March for good following an 18-year working cum racing stay in the United States and was still enjoying the company of Baby and other children Mannie, Rowena, Rheea, Bong, Beck, Boyong, Recah, Xannie and Floyd at the time of his death.
Maui's eldest son, George, his 'partner in crime' during his colorful pro-career, is in the US. It was George who, besides acting as his driver in his team vehicle in all his successful professional career while racing under the banner of Crispa, also mapped out strategies that carried his father to victories after victories.
Reynante's remains lie in state at the family residence at 154 T. Molina in Alabang. Interment was scheduled on Tuesday, November 6.
Highlights of Maui's professional campaigns came nine years after shedding off his amateur status when he, wearing the Redmanizers' uniform, captured the championship trophy in the 1977 Tour Ng Pilipinas, a 4,200-kilometer grind of 24 stages from Mindanao, the longest in local cycling history.
He was runner up to another legend Domingo Quilban in the 10-leg 1969 Tour Ng Pilipinas before winning the semi-pro First Tour of PICCA (Philippine Commercial Cycling Association) topping three laps in the process.
Reynante was last seen on the road in the 21-stop, 2,758-kilometer 1980 Tour of the Philippines where he finished third place also in partnership with Crispa owner Danny Floro, who became a close friend and supporter.
Maui was also named national coach in the PHL campaigns in the 1974 RP-China dual meet and Seventh Asian Games in Tehran, 1981 Arafura Sports Festival in Darwin City, Australia and the 1991 Southeast Asian Games.
While in the US, he also took part in such tough seniors races as the Race Across America in Irvine, California and Savannah, Georgia, Tour of North Texas, Huntsman World Seniors Games St. George, Utah, Mengoni Gran Prix in New York, McLane-Pacific Classic in Modesto, California, Livemore Road Race in Livermore, Califnornia, Land Park Criterium and More in Sacramento and the Sacramento Senior Games. (PNA)