VETERAN Navy rider Joel Calderon has had enough of critics dismissing their team's dominant performance at the 2016 LBC Ronda Pilipinas.
But instead of trading barbs, he'd rather settle the dispute on the road.
After dominating the Visayas leg, members of the Philippine Navy-Standard Insurance team including Calderon have grown tired of comments belittling the team's dominance of the annual cycling extravaganza.
Calderon even recalled to SPIN.ph one incident that ticked him off.
"Nagensayo ako sa Tarlac after ng Ronda Visayas, pag-park ko pa lang ng bike ko, may sumisigaw: 'Wala naman kayong kalaban eh,'" in obvious reference to the absence of other top cycling teams like 7-11 by Roadbike Philippines and Kopiko Cebu from the Ronda race.
"Sabi ko, 'Pumunta ka sana para ikaw ang kalaban namin,'" he shared. "Hindi naman namin kasalanan na sumali kami rito, sila ang may kasalanan bakit hindi sila sumali."
In the first two legs of Ronda Pilipinas, which adapted a different set-up this year, Navymen Jan Paul Morales and Ronald Oranza snared the Mindanao and Visayas titles without much opposition.
The riders of businessman-sportsman Nestor Echauz also took 9 of the first 10 stages of the tournament sponsored by LBC, LBC Sports Development, MVP Sports Foundation, Mitsubishi and NLEX, with coverage powered by Wheeltek Motors and FEU-NRMF
Calderon pointed out that the Navy cyclists aren't winning over patsies, especially with the return of LBC-MVP team in the Visayas leg.
"Hindi naman kami lang naglalaro, marami ding naglalaro. Nakaka tsamba lang siguro sila (kakampi ko)," he said.
Yet Calderon is baffled that some choose to dismiss the team's feats, prompting him to issue a challenge to the 7-11 and Kopiko Cebu teams to challenge them in Ronda's Luzon stage beginning on April 3.
"Lumaban na lang sila, labanan na lang nila kami kesa sinasabi nila na puro kami lang nananalo. Yun nga gusto namin, mas marami ang kalaban namin," the Navy assistant skipper said.
"Hinahamon namin sila (7-11), lahat kahit Kopiko (Cebu). Mas gusto sana namin yung nandito sila, para mas maraming kahabulan. Pero kahit sumali sila, ganun rin mangyayari sa tawas (kami pa rin naman yan). Mas magiging maganda lang ang habulan.
"Mas marami kaming sprinter kesa sa kanila (7-11 and Kopiko). Point system ang labanan, kaya medyo may kakalagyan talaga sila (sa amin)," added Calderon.
Calderon said he needed to answer the critics to stand up not only for their team but for the rest of the Ronda field.
"Laro na lang sila sa Luzon, kasi nakakasakit rin sa kalooban namin 'yung may nagsasabi na, 'Kaya kayo nanalo, wala kayong kalaban eh.' Merun din namang ibang sumali eh, di lang kami," Calderon said.
"Kung gusto nilang sumali, yung mga nagsasabi na wala kaming kalaban, sumali sila, para sila ang kalaban namin," he said.
Meanwhile, Calderon's wish for 7-11 by Roadbike Philippines to participate in the Luzon leg of Ronda Pilipinas looms large as the continental team's stint in the Tour of Sarawak failed to push through as organizers reportedly cancelled the race at the last minute.