Shocking Ronda Pilipinas twist as Lapaza grabs lead
SUBIC BAY FREEPORT—Riemon Lapaza, an obscure motorcycle mechanic, pulled off a coup in the penultimate stage Saturday by snatching the overall leader’s red jersey from Mark Galedo of 7-Eleven Continental Cycling Team in the Ronda Pilipinas International 2014.
The mountain specialist from Butuan City moved on the cusp of greatness by wiping out the two-minute of Galedo following a courageous run in the 13th stage won by Rustom Lim of PLDT Maynilad.
“I never thought I could get it (overall). God gave it to me,” said the 27-year-old in Filipino after the Cycleline Butuan Mindanao rider ended Galedo’s eight-stage stint on top after the rough and bumpy 149.1-kilometer ride that started at Clark, Pampanga.
Lim nosed out Philippine Army’s Irish Valenzuela, who checked in second, and third-placer Lloyd Reynante of Philippine Navy Standard Insurance after a wild sprint. Lim picked up his first stage victory in the 14-leg bikathon by clocking 3 hours 35 minutes and 13 seconds like Valenzuela and Reynante.
In second place since the sixth stage that ended in Antipolo City last week, Lapaza overhauled the 2-minute, 16-second lead by Galedo before the stage after arriving three seconds behind Lim in the company of French rider Peter Pouly, who climbed a notch up to second overall.
Galedo, the 2012 Ronda champion, came home 3:30 after Lapaza along with a bunch of foreign sprinters.
After giving Lapaza a bear hug at the teams’ tent as a sign of surrender, Galedo quickly went inside the 7-Eleven team vehicle, refusing to talk and weeping quietly in frustration.
“I guess the title is already mine. I just have to stay away from mechanical problems or a flat tire,” said Lapaza.
Although there’s one more stage, Lapaza is now on the threshold of pocketing the P1-million individual champion’s purse because a successful attack by his main rivals in Sunday’s fast and rolling 89-km criterium finale in Marikina City is highly improbable.
Lapaza led Pouly, who virtually clinched the king of the mountain crown, by 1:12 and two-time Tour champion Galedo by 1:18.
Galedo’s team also suffered as 7-Eleven dropped to third overall in the race for the P1-million team champion’s prize.