Shifting Gears, Going Global
In a male-dominated sport, Ariana Dormitorio hits the trails hard. Thanks in part to talent, sheer determination, and expert coaching from her father Donjie, this young cyclist is ready for the big leagues.
Text by Maan D’Asis Pamaran | Photos by Jijo de Guzman
Special thanks to Filnvest City Trails Alabang for the photo shoot location
Looks can be deceiving. The petite, pretty 20-year-old is a monster on the trails, owing to a childhood spent riding two wheels. Ariana Dormitorio, an aspiring bet for the 2020 Olympics in Japan, recalls how it all started.
“I was 10 when I started mountain biking. My dad had his offseason from remote-control racing and he got invited by some of his friends to ride. He bought three bikes for our family to use,” says Ariana.
Father and daughter bonded by riding the trails inside their village and around the metro. Two years later, her father chanced upon a mountain bike race announcement on the Internet and they joined.
“I was late for the kids’ registration so I participated in the women’s open category. I was the youngest at the age of 12 and placed 6th out of 12, competing with women twice my age. From there, I was challenged to join other races because I wanted to win first place,” Ariana says.
Though it seemed like she was born to ride, It wasn’t an easy journey. In March 2012, in a mountain bike race in Cardona, Rizal, she had a very bad spill. “I had a really bad accident where I thought I was already dead,” she says.
“People told me that when I crashed, my head hit the rocks first and I wasn’t breathing. Luckily, the competitor behind me revived me. All I can remember is that I woke up on a stretcher, being carried to the ambulance. My right leg was all black because it was bruised badly, I had a concussion and my arms had wounds.
“But after four days, I forced my dad to let me join his ride with his friends because I was really bored at home. From there, I felt that mountain biking is more than just a hobby. It can be something I can really excel in,” Ariana says.
CYCLING FOR THE WIN
Excel, she did. Ariana’s numerous gold medals prove it, and her recent first-place finishes are big-time. On November 6 in Kuching, Malaysia, she was the Asia Mountainbike Series Female Elite Grand Champion for the 25-km XCO race format. This is a cross-country Olympics race format that consists of a lap around a short circuit and with a distance of 25 km total. It’s the only discipline which is in the Olympics, and high-level mountain bike skills are required. She finished the three legs in one hour and 12 minutes. Ariana beat Thailand’s top mountain bikers Nuntana Supuksorn and Phetpraphan Warinthorn who placed 2nd and 3rd place respectively.
Ariana describes her experience at the Asia Mountainbike Series in Malaysia as one of the toughest races she participated in. It was challenging course with steep uphills and downhills, and it was slippery because of the rains. “There were sections where we had to carry our bikes going up or down the trail. Good thing that during our training days back in the Philippines, my dad, who is also my coach, included practicing carrying our bikes on the trail.“
Ariana is also the Overall Champion for the Cross Country World Marathon Series in Nuvali, Laguna last November 19, 2016. She won with a time of 5:16:12 for the 90-km XCM race format. Compared to the XCO, that XCM or Cross Country Marathon is a race format which has a usual distance of 65 to 100 kilometers.
The Nuvali XCM World Series qualifier which she won, earned her a slot to the 2017 World XCM Championships in Germany. But Coach Donjie says Ariana has no intention of joining the Germany race.
“She is concentrating on XCO format races only, which is the format used in the Olympics, Asian Games, and SEA (Southeast Asian) Games,” he says. Her target A-race: 2017 UCI (Union Cycliste Internationale) under-23 XCO World Championship in Cairns, Australia in September 2017. Her Kuching win on November 6 and a gold in leg 1 of the 25-km XCO Asian Mountainbike Series in Ranau, also in Malaysia last August 31, with a a strong finish of 1:16:58.
Imagining Ariana storming the trails of these three races is enough to leave anyone breathless. She herself says she’s overwhelmed by the achievement. She isn’t one to rest on her laurels, and aims higher. She has already racked up 40 UCI points, and will represent the country in next year’s World Mountain Bike Championship.
The UCI, as cycling’s global governing body for races, also ranks elite athletes based on the points garnered in UCI sanctioned races.
Ariana’s holy grail is the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, which will be the first time that the Philippines will join the MTB competition. She will be 24 by then, just at the right age for the competition, where the average age is 29. She has four years to hone her skills against cyclists from countries that dominate the 25-km XCO such as Switzerland, France, and Germany.
As 2017 approaches, the Olympics are not far away. Ariana knows time flies. “A lot has happened and things are moving way too fast,” she says. “Looking back at where I started, I could not have imagined myself to be the person I am today. I’m very thankful to all of those who helped me get to where I am, especially to my dad, because he’s the one who encouraged me to take up mountain biking,” she says.
She says that her father, Donjie, 47, will continue being her coach in the runup to Tokyo. “I could not ask for a better coach. He’s the best one out there, in my opinion,” Ariana says.
Having dad as coach, is having access to guidance 24/7 not just on mountain biking skills but on life too.
He taught me that in order to make things happen the way you want it to be, you should think it
she says, adding it’s a principle that has worked ever since for her.
“The level of trust is different because of the father and daughter bond,” says Donjie.
The combination of discipline and values she’s learned from her coach and father has worked even in academics. She graduated as valedictorian of her high school class at Hope Christian Academy in Quezon City on March 2013.
Because she’s driven, she and her father decided to let college wait. “We totally want to focus on cycling for now. Luckily, I’m not going to school yet because I’m pretty sure that I won’t be able to enjoy my college life if I bike and study at the same time,” Ariana says.
Full-time training for cycling is “my job at the moment.” On free weekday afternoons, she hangs with her friends. Weekends are for family.
Ariana has three younger sisters, Alyssa, 18, Lexi, 8 and Aerice, 4. Of the three, the two youngest are also starting to ride and enter biking competitions with dad Donjie encouraging them along.
Donjie remembers Ariana as a young, sports-minded girl. “She has always enjoyed all the sports that I do, like soccer, table tennis and badminton,” he says. But when she started competing, and decided to handle her training, he realized he had the gift for coaching His greatest lesson learned is to: “keep evolving and adjust with the times.”
“Through the years, I have developed our own personal training system that was based on the actual needs of Ariana during her race. It is this same modified system that we are sharing in our training school, The Coach D Mountain Bike Efficiency Training System. We accept students from all over the country. Some are even overseas. I teach them via Online coaching,” Donjie says. He launched his coaching school (www.facebook.com/CoachDMtb) on April 2016. He coaches 28 students from Manila like Qatar, Iloilo, Cebu, and Palawan.
Women and wheels
Life isn’t just about cycling. “When I’m not out in the woods or inside the gym, you’ll see me at home, singing a lot! I also like to bake and cook, or or go longboarding in our backyard. I like to shop for clothes. People only see me as a girl who bikes but little do they know that I’m very girly,” she says.
Ariana, who goes for shirts, shorts, and sneakers when not in her cycling kit, even has a very supportive boyfriend. “I met him in the trails actually. He’s an Enduro rider so between us, there is no competition at all”.
She wants to dispel the notion that mountain biking is not for “girly girls.” “Women shouldn’t really be afraid of the things that may happen because as long as you know how to handle the situation and that you know that when you crash on soil, it doesn’t really hurt, then there’s really nothing to be hesitant about.” Ariana also extols the benefits of riding a bike. “Traffic is a really big problem nowadays. People don’t realize that cycling is one of the best solutions. Not only that that you get to exercise, you’re able to solve traffic problems and save Mother Earth.”
All I needed to know about life, I learned from mountain biking.
→There are a lot of obstacles along the way but you’ve just got to conquer them with the help of people who believe in you.
→If you face people that will pull you down, ignore them — at all costs. Do not let them get to you and just keep on doing what you love to do. You can never please everyone anyway.
→If you really want something to happen, always imagine that it has already happened.
→Never doubt yourself because having even the slightest doubt is a form of negativity and that won’t do any good.
→Be confident in who you are and what you are capable of.
→Remain humble and down to earth at all times.
→The universe will reward you with things you’ve never even imagined of happening.