Unheralded Lapaza new Ronda Pilipinas king
MANILA, Philippines — Two years ago, Riemon Lapaza marveled at Mark Galedo’s achievement as he hoisted the elegant Ronda Pilipinas championship trophy.
Sunday, Lapaza claimed the same precious hardware for himself.
The low-key motorcycle mechanic from Butuan City became the newest toast in the sport by coasting home with his closest pursuers in the closing stage and completing a dream victory in Ronda Pilipinas International 2014.
“It’s like a dream, I couldn’t believe it,” said Lapaza, 27, who shocked cycling fans by seizing the overall lead from two-time bikathon champion Galedo in the penultimate stage.
The first-ever Tour champion from Mindanao was teary eyed at the awarding ceremony where he received an oversized replica of the P600,000 individual champion’s prize. He also earned another P400,000 for emerging as best Filipino rider.
The little-known rider from Cycleline Butuan Mindanao clenched his fist as he crossed the finish line 14 seconds behind Stage 14 winner Feng Chun-kai of Taiwan, who ruled the rolling 89-kilometer criterium on the avenues of the country’s shoe capital in one hour, 42 minutes and 21 seconds.
Feng, already the winner of the third (San Pablo City) and fifth (Lucena City) legs, beat Ronald Oranza of PLDT Maynilad in a sprint photo-finish while Jae Yeon-im of South Korea placed third, nine seconds back.
Lapaza didn’t win a single stage.
He was running second in the overall race behind Galedo since the sixth stage that ended in hilly Antipolo City before forging ahead by beating the 2012 Ronda titleholder by more than three minutes in Saturday’s bumpy Clark-Subic ride to wipe out a 2:16-minute deficit.
“I vividly remember the time when he (Galedo) won it two years ago,” said Lapaza. “Since then, I’ve become his fan. He’s my idol, so I never thought that I could get the red jersey from him.”
Peter Pouly, a five-time French mountain bike champ, won the white jersey for best climber while finishing second overall, 1:07 behind Lapaza, after the 14-leg tour that began in Quezon City, moved to less-traveled roads in Southern Luzon before heading to the Cordilleras.
It was a disappointing Tour for Galedo, who was still in control after the last mountain finish in Baguio only to give up the red shirt of leadership with one stage left. He finished third, 1:37 off.
Jae, who rides for Uijeongbu City Cycling Team, took home the blue jersey for best sprinter and George Oconer, son of 1992 Barcelona Olympian Norberto Oconer, won the yellow gold jersey for best young rider.
Philippine Navy Standard Insurance, a squad backed by Philippine Olympic Committee board member Ernesto Echauz, brought home the biggest prize of P1 million by topping the team race.
Three-time champion Santy Barnachea, Lloyd Reynante, Jan Paul Morales, Joel Calderon, Rudy Roque and Oconer formed the core of the Navymen, who beat second-placer PLDT Maynilad Pro Team by 2:52 and 7-Eleven Continental Cycling by 12:18.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.