Hero’s welcome awaits Lapaza
MANILA, Philippines — For winning the most revered prize in local cycling, Reimon Lapaza will be feted as a hero in Butuan City.
The Ronda Pilipinas International 2014 champion has made his hometown doubly proud after becoming the first cycling Tour winner from Mindanao.
“We’re going home first flight on Wednesday and I was told a warm reception awaits Reimon,” said Lito Patayan, manager of Lapaza’s team, Cycleline Butuan Mindanao.
Lapaza’s victory also put him in sight of the national team. The rider revealed in yesterday’s PSA Forum at Shakey’s Ermita that frustration after missing the squad to last year’s Southeast Asian Games helped push him to train harder for the Ronda.
“It pushed me to train and work hard,” said Lapaza, who believed his performance during the trials should have been good for a national team slot. “I’d been thinking about it during the race most of the time.”
A virtual unknown before the 14-stage race, the 27-year-old stole the limelight from former champions Mark Galedo of 7-Eleven Continental Cycling Team, Irish Valenzuela of Philippine Army and Santy Barnachea of Philippine Navy Standard Insurance, and the foreign challenge led by Frenchman Peter Pouly, who placed second overall.
“I still couldn’t believe it until now, it’s hard to describe the feeling. It’s like magic,” said Lapaza, a motorcycle mechanic who never figured prominently in the first three editions of the Ronda.
Lapaza, whose previous claim to fame was winning a pair of two-day races in Calbayog, Samar in 2012 and Leyte last year, was never considered a threat for the overall title.
He placed second behind Cris Joven of 7-Eleven in the second stage that ended in Silang, Cavite, the only podium finish in a stage that Lapaza has had in his career.
“Reimon showed us that if you work and train hard, you can realize your dreams,” said Patayan.
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