Mauricio Mendez. Photo by Tristan Tamayo/ INQUIRER.net
LAPU-LAPU CITY — Mauricio Mendez has heard all the talks about how great the feeling is racing in the Philippines as he prepared for his first triathlon in the country.
But the Mexican wasn’t prepared for the warmth the Cebuano crowd gave him, expressing his gratitude with the lift from the spectators as he found his second wind late in the 2017 Cobra Energy Drink Ironman 70.3 Philippines on Sunday.
“That race was really hard. But I think what makes it great is really the support of the people. All the support from everyone is just incredible,” the 22-year-old said. “I was told it was a lot of fun here, but I never expected that. It just pumped me up.”
It was a complete 180-degree shift for Mendez, who usually doesn’t pay much attention to his surroundings whenever he races.
“When I start running, I try to lose myself a little bit and just focus on the race. I knew it was more of like a survival because it was very hot,” he said.
The 2016 Xterra world champion couldn’t help but soak in all the cheers as he battled through the scorching heat with the crowd giving him the much-needed boost that helped him recover from his slow showing in the bike course before eventually, moving past the chase group to get to as high as second place.
“I’m just happy for being able to thank all the people that supported the race. In the first kilometer, I just wanted to finish because I really thought that this is going to be a long race. But I gave my heart and I expected to do well. I’m just happy for the result,” he said.
With the morale-boosting stint, Mendez vowed to be back next year for the 2018 Asia Pacific Championships as he hopes to get another chance to race in front of the adoring Cebuanos.
“I’m really looking forward to coming back here next year, train harder, try to get a win, and just be the best person that I can be,” he said. “I will be back. I’ll try to win this race and I will try everything I can to be here.”