Cordillera Challenge is back after 5 years 2
Photo credit: Cordillera Trust
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Cordillera Challenge is back after 5 years

The Cordillera Challenge, the toughest and longest running mountain bike race in the Philippines, is back after five years.
Jeeves De Veyra | May 14 2024

The Cordillera Challenge, the toughest and longest running mountain bike race in the Philippines, is back after five years.

Cyclists familiar with grueling nature and extreme elevation changes would mutter expletives mixed in with a healthy dose of reverence at the mere mention of the event. But for participants, the challenge is rewarded by going through the wild beauty of the Cordillera forests, beautiful mountain vistas that very few ever see, and bragging rights for having finished one the most hardcore uphills in the country.

Since the event started back in 2010 with a scant 50 participants, the number of participants has steadily grown in number. They had to stop the annual event because of the pandemic.

The Cordillera Challenge had 800 participants at its peak pre-pandemic. This year, they’re expecting around 250 cyclists at the starting line at the Banao River Adventure in Bokod, Benguet. The event has three categories – the sprint (5km), a mini-epic (35km), and the epic (45km). While the distances are short by cycling race standards, the sheer verticality of the course with past races going up 1,000 meters in just 8 kms. A new sub-category this year is an E-mountain bike category where pedal-assist mountain bikes will be allowed to run the course.

Joseph Paul Alipio, Cordillera Trust director, the environmental organization behind the Cordillera Challenge, pointed out that the mountain bike race, along with sister event Cordillera Ultramarathon, were a big boon to what he calls the “adventure economy.”

While the race is a fundraising initiative for conservation projects, an added benefit is the involvement of local communities as the marshals and race officials are paid by the Cordillera Trust. The race gives participants views of the Cordilleras rarely seen by outsiders where the race route brings cyclists through roads and singletrack that are used daily by the local community to bring cargo to and from their remote villages. Many of these are now plotted routes that are cycled and hiked through the off season. The area’s tourism is boosted from visitors booking accommodation through homestays and buying food from small eateries in the area.

For mountain bikers looking for a different challenge, The Cordillera Challenge will be held on June 2.