For over 100 years, the Tour De France has been the world’s most prestigious bicycle race. In all that time, the Philippines has never once fielded a competitor – until now.
Introducing Junrey Navarra, a cycling prodigy from the heart of Mindanao. A 3-time winner of the Baguio stage of the Ronda Filipinas race, Navarra is considered one of today’s rising stars of Philippine cycling. Today, he is being groomed to be the country’s first-ever entrant in the Tour De France.
This is a major coup for the 24-year old cyclist, who left high school at an early age to concentrate on his professional career. The son of parents who work in a durian-selling company Honing his skills in his province’s mountainous terrain, Navarra developed an almost preternatural ability to handle climbs.
Before long, Navarra was winning every local race he signed up for, catching the eyes of the racing community, and thanks to science, Navarra’s trainers were able to learn why when they measured his VO2 Max during standard physiological testing. Used to measure an athlete’s capability for endurance events, the tests revealed that Navarra’s VO2 Max – the amount of oxygen he could absorb during prolonged strenuous activity – was on par with the top 10% in the world. Thus, science had officially proven what race analysts had long known: Navarra could race against the best of the best.
Since then, Navarra has set his sights on international competition, including the 2013 SEA Games, where he won a Bronze medal for the country, representing the Philippines everywhere from Indonesia, Malaysia, and Taiwan. In 2014, he joined his first European race, the UCI 1.1 GP Miguel Indurain in Spain, where he placed in the top 30 against 150 international pro racers, the first Filipino to accomplish the feat in an event of this scale.
Known for his humility, Navarra hasn’t forgotten his roots, nor his family, whom he helps support through his racing . When asked about his thoughts upon being declared Ronda Pilipinas’ “King of the Mountain” in 2013, for instance, the then-rookie told media outlets that it is always his family back home that he thinks of while racing.
Today, as he prepares for the Tour De France with the support of the Alaska Milk Corporation, Navarra is well aware of the responsibility he bears representing his motherland in front of the whole world and, on that note, we at PlayPH will be ready to cheer him on.