Tak­ing on the chal­lenge

Business World - - WEEKENDER - By Michael An­gelo S. Murillo, Re­porter

THREE thou­sand miles in nine days, that is what a group of ground­break­ing cy­clists rep­re­sent­ing the Philip­pines hopes to ac­com­plish as it takes part later this year in one of the world’s most re­spected and long­est-run­ning ul­tra-en­durance events — the Race Across Amer­ica (RAAM).

Backed by David’s Salon and sup­ported by TaskUs, a global cus­tomer care so­lu­tions com­pany, cy­clists Colin Pear­son and his wife, Carmela, Vanessa Ban­doy Hans, and Guil­laume d’Aboville will make his­tory as they be­come the first team from South­east Asia to com­pete in the RAAM, which will be held in June, in the race’s more than three-decade his­tory.

Apart from test­ing their abil­i­ties and lim­its as ath­letes, Team David’s Salon is com­pet­ing in RAAM to in­spire other peo­ple to pur­sue their own pas­sions in sport and life, and to fo­cus the spot­light on the char­ity it is sup­port­ing — the France-Philip­pines United Ac­tion Foun­da­tion, which is in­volved in dis­as­ter re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion in North­ern Cebu.

Race Across Amer­ica starts at Ocean­side, Cal­i­for­nia, and ends in An­napo­lis, Mary­land. The race will take cy­clists across 12 states, cross­ing four rivers (the Colorado, Mississippi, Mis­souri, and Ohio) and travers­ing three ma­jor moun­tain ranges ( the Sierra, Rocky, and Ap­palachian moun­tains), on their way to the fin­ish line. It is open to am­a­teur and pro­fes­sional rac­ers.

Team David’s Salon is com­pet­ing in the four-per­son re­lay. Other race cat­e­gories are solo, two-, and eight-per­son re­lay teams.

Through the years, RAAM has proven it­self to be an ef­fec­tive av­enue to raise aware­ness and money for the rac­ers’ cho­sen char­i­ties.

As per the of­fi­cial site of Race Across Amer­ica, rac­ers have raised over $2 mil­lion per year over the past five years.


The mem­bers of Team David’s Salon, who are all good friends, de­cided to band to­gether to take on the chal­lenge, rec­og­niz­ing the sig­nif­i­cance of be­ing the first from the Philip­pines, or South­east Asia for that mat­ter, to race in the RAAM. But were quick to say that beat­ing others to it was not the pri­mary rea­son for them join­ing.

“We re­al­ize that this is ground­break­ing. How­ever, this isn’t the rea­son why we joined. It just so hap­pened that no one from South­east Asia did it be­fore us. We just like un­der­tak­ing crazy cy­cling chal­lenges. As of now, we still are the only ones

in the Philip­pines com­pet­ing. Even if it is ma­jor, we clearly are the un­der­dog and hope to place well to prove that wher­ever you are from, any­thing is pos­si­ble,” said Ms. Hans, the youngest in the group at 27, said in an e-mail cor­re­spon­dence with BusinessWorld.

Cur­rently the group is right in the mid­dle of train­ing, which is prov­ing to be chal­leng­ing since all the mem­bers have full-time jobs.

“We all have full- time jobs which makes train­ing dif­fi­cult. We need to fo­cus on both en­durance and speed. The chal­lenge will be to re­peat fast-paced rid­ing over sev­eral days. For now we have been train­ing as a group over the week­end and fo­cus on in­door train­ing on week­days,” Ms. Pear­son, 35, said.

Aside from train­ing, the team is also build­ing a sup­port crew that in­cludes David’s Salon Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fi­cer and Pres­i­dent David Charl­ton, which will ac­com­pany it in fac­ing the RAAM chal­lenge.

“Once we reg­is­tered, the idea that we would ac­tu­ally do this started sink­ing in. More than just putting in the train­ing, it is huge pro­duc­tion. We need to sort out lo­gis­tics but also find the right peo­ple for the sup­port crew which will be an im­por­tant com­po­nent in this en­deavor. This is ma­jor pro­duc­tion!” said Mr. Pear­son, 46.

Be­ing a re­lay race, they be­ing good friends helps a lot said the team mem­bers, while also high­light­ing some of their strengths as mem­bers of the group.

Fifty-eight-year-old French­man d’Aboville and Mr. Pear­son, a Bri­tish na­tional who has lived in Asia for 17 years, said their men­tal strength should help the team, es­pe­cially dur­ing tough sit­u­a­tions, as well as their skills in fix­ing bikes dur­ing the course of the race.

Ms. Hans said her years of racing and jovial dis­po­si­tion are the things she brings to the team, while Ms. Pear­son be­lieves her ex­ten­sive long-dis­tance cy­cling back­ground could make a dif­fer­ence.

All four also touted cy­cling’s abil­ity to bring peo­ple to­gether and to in­spire.

“Cy­cling has no age or gen­der boundaries. We truly be­lieve that this is what our team stands for as we rep­re­sent four dif­fer­ent decades ( Vany in her 20s, Mela 30s, Colin 40s, and Guil­laume 50s) and of course two women and two men. Cy­cling is a good con­duit for pro­mot­ing di­ver­sity as we met through it even though we come through dif­fer­ent walks of life and might have never met if it wasn’t for cy­cling,” Ms. Pear­son said.


Iden­ti­fy­ing with Team David’s Salon’s thrust of pur­su­ing one’s pas­sion with grit and de­ter­mi­na­tion, TaskUs said it did not hes­i­tate to be part of the team’s jour­ney when it was pre­sented the op­por­tu­nity to come on­board.

“As a com­pany, we have al­ways been on the look­out for lo­cal tal­ents that we can sup­port who show the same grit and de­ter­mi­na­tion as a startup — whether it be in cy­cling, fash­ion, or street art,” said Rey Salazar, Jr., TaskUs chief of staff, in an­other e- mail cor­re­spon­dence.

“To come out of left field and find your­self toe- to- toe with the world’s best is a story that deeply res­onates with us. We started with five peo­ple in an of­fice above a vul­can­iz­ing shop. Eight years and some heartaches later, we’re at 8,000 em­ploy­ees in the Philip­pines alone. Team David’s Salon is fac­ing the same chal­lenge and we’re more than happy to do our part in build­ing a fan base to cheer them on,” added Mr. Salazar, whose group will be in charge of doc­u­ment­ing the group’s jour­ney, share it, and gather so­cial me­dia sup­port for the team.

“Both TaskUs and David’s Salon are a ma­jor part of this chal­lenge: we don’t think this would have been pos­si­ble with­out them. Their sup­port as far as pro­vid­ing vis­i­bil­ity for the team and our char­ity ef­forts with the FrancePhilip­pines United Ac­tion Foun­da­tion, as well as in terms of lo­gis­tics and pro­vid­ing ac­com­mo­da­tion and trans­porta­tion, is ab­so­lutely crit­i­cal,” Ms. Hans said of their main sup­port­ers.

Notwithstanding the tough chal­lenge ahead of it in the Race Across Amer­ica, Team David’s Salon said it is de­ter­mined to see it through.

“We can all agree that what we look for­ward to fin­ish­ing this to­gether in good spir­its. We al­ready re­ceived a lot of mes­sages of en­cour­age­ment from Filipinos both in the Philip­pines and abroad. The morale sup­port we have been get­ting has been over­whelm­ing,” the Pear­sons said.

But above all, Team David’s Salon is hop­ing that peo­ple get to take cue from the “life les­son” the jour­ney it is about to un­der­take en­tails.

“We hope this will in­spire more peo­ple to pur­sue their pas­sion in life and take on what­ever chal­lenge is ahead of them,” Mr. d’Aboville said.

Race Across Amer­ica races roll off on June 13 and 17.


VANESSA Ban­doy Hans, 27, is the youngest mem­ber of Team David’s Salon, which is racing in the ul­tra­en­durance event Race Across Amer­ica.

MEM­BERS of Team David’s Salon are (from left) Vanessa Ban­doy Hans, Guil­laume d’Aboville, Colin Pear­son and Carmela Pear­son.

AS PART of its prepa­ra­tion for the Race Across Amer­ica chal­lenge, Team David’s Salon is train­ing as a group dur­ing week­ends.

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