LONDON -- If the result of the time trial is any indication, then BMX rider Danny Caluag is in for a tough, bumpy ride on Thursday afternoon at the London Velopark.
But the Filipino-American, the last man standing for the embattled Team Philippines, said the outcome of the seeding run doesn’t worry him a bit, adding it’s in the quarterfinals where the real battle begins in the sport that’s making its second appearance in the Olympic Games.
“Seeding runs don’t mean anything. Tomorrow is another day,” Caluag told Filipino sportswriters shortly after the time trial, still looking confident as he biked around the fringes of the new track inside the Olympic Park.
But he’d better be good, given the amazing times submitted by the rest of the field in their 450-meter dash from a high ramp to the line going through banked corners and up-and-down strips during the seeding run before a crowd of 6,000 on a sunny Wednesday.
Starting out first in a field of 32, the 25-year-old Caluag clocked 40.900 seconds in the one-lap drive as he finished second from last in the time trial where 27 others registered 39.772 seconds or faster.
“I miscalculated a corner so I slowed down a bit,’’ said Caluag, left alone to carry the heavy load of ending the country’s humiliating run of misses that began in the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
He’s racing in heat three during the quarterfinals in the company of Nicholas Long of the US, Joris Daudet of France, Marc Willers of New Zealand, David Herman of the US, Manuel de Vecchi of Italy, Roger Rinderkbecht of Sweden, and Ernesto Pizarro of Argentina.
Raymon van der Biezen of the Netherlands came out the fastest of the lot, submitting a time of 37.779 seconds as he “bunny-hopped” as if he was flying and rolled through wave-like bumps with elan on a tricky track for which 14,000 cubic meters of soil was used.
The Dutch will take off in the first heat, while world No. 1 Sam Willoughby of Australia, who had the sixth best time of 38.496, and defending champion Maris Stromberg of Latvia, who had 38.697 for 10th spot, will race in heat 4.
Caluag, son of a Filipino couple who migrated to the US some 30 years ago, found himself as the only Philippine athlete with a realistic chance of making a podium finish following the ouster of boxer Mark Anthony Barriga late last week.
The nine other Filipino athletes — archers Mark Javier and Rachel Cabral, swimmers Jasmine Alkhaldi and Jessie Lacuna, judoka Tomohiko Hoshina, weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz, shooter Brian Rosario, long jumper Marestella Torres and 5000-m run bet Rene Herrera — got booted out one after the other.
That left Caluag doing it all alone now.
And unless the gods of the game smile on him on Thursday, Team Philippine may see Caluag going home earlier than expected.
Caluag, who sees action most of the times in the American circuit, missed posting the worst time only because the other Latvian in the field, Edzus Treimanis, spilled halfway through his lap and did not finish.
Under the rules, the 32 riders, divided into four groups of eight, will race for five runs, with points awarded according to places for each run. After the first three runs in each quarterfinal, the top two riders in each heat with the lowest total points go to the semifinals.
The remaining riders in each heat will continue for two more additional runs, with the top riders from each heat (calculated from all five runs) advancing and completing the semifinal round cast.
The semifinal will be disputed over three runs, with the best four riders from each of the two groups advancing to the final, which is expected to be tough and interesting since it will be held only over a single run.