Velasco, Braxton roar to the finish line

Posted on Dec 07 2021
Arvin Velasco (54) lines up at the starting line

Arvin Velasco (54) lines up at the starting line of the road bike long course division of Saipan Unity Lions Club’s 5th Annual Bike Race held last Nov. 28. (LAO ZHANG)

Arvin Velasco and Ayano Braxton emerged the king and queen of the road in Saipan Unity Lions Club’s 5th Annual Bike Race held last Nov. 28.

Velasco topped the men’s division of the road bike category after negotiating the Banzai/Mobil/1-Million Gallon Water Tank Turnaround/Suicide Cliff/Bird Island/Banza route in 1:07:54.

Mark Isip came in a few ticks after Velasco crossed the finish line in 1:07:58, while Ren Ren Gaviola completed the Top 3 in basically the same time as Isip.

Velasco said road conditions during the race were pretty bad because of the weather.

“It rained before the race so the road was very wet and very dangerous. It was especially more dangerous in the downhill rides. In fact, a lot of riders slipped. Fortunately there were no serious accidents,” he said.

The 28-year-old Commonwealth Health Center dialysis technician said because of work and babysitting, his training has been confined to indoor rides in his stationary bike lately.

“I’ve been only able to ride one to two times a month. It feels really different training indoors compared to outdoors especially going uphill. I was surprised that I had a hard time in my first climb so I just tried to hang on to the lead group then in the last kilometer I managed to breakaway and fortunately won,” the Taytay, Philippines native said.

Velasco said winning the 5th Annual Bike Race was actually the farthest in his mind since multi-titled veteran rider Joel Buco also took part in the competition. “I think I just got lucky!”

Ayano Braxton in action during the road bike long course division

Ayano Braxton in action during the road bike long course division of Saipan Unity Lions Club’s 5th Annual Bike Race held last Nov. 28. (CONTRIBUTED PHOTO)

Like the men’s champion, Braxton also had a photo-finish victory over Jay Anne Felipe in the long course of the road bike women’s division after timing in at 1:17:13. Felipe came in second in 1:17:18 followed by Heather Brook in 1:19:34.

Braxton said her win in the Saipan Unity Lions Club race was a fitting advance birthday gift for herself.

“I was super happy that day! This was my last race at being 42 years old and I won first place on my bike race. I knew I was going to win,” she said.

Braxton said road conditions were far from ideal as she seconded Velasco’s observation that rain before the race made racing conditions quite perilous.

“The road was wet due to rain, so downhill everyone went slowly…I want to dedicate the win to everyone,” she said.

In the short course category of the road bike that encompassed the Banzai/Mobil/Banzai route, Teddy Calma triumphed among the men with a time of 1:01:03 followed by Jaypee Pangilinan and Rick Bauer with times of 1:04:00 and 1:09:56, respectively.

The women’s short course of the road bike course, Vernice Estepa topped all comers after crossing the finish line in 1:04:45. Zayra Ganacias and Rowena Houck finished second and third with times of 1:05:07 and 1:08:17, respectively.

Results of the mountain bike race will be published in tomorrow’s issue of Saipan Tribune.

Proceeds from the SULC 5th Annual Bike Race fundraiser will be used for various year-long programs that are in line with the club’s service goals as well as other humanitarian services as the needs arise.

Mark Rabago | Associate Editor
Mark Rabago is the Associate Editor of Saipan Tribune. Contact him at
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