Ronda champ: From mechanic to cycling icon

By Joey Villar, The Philippine Star

Posted at Feb 18 2014 09:07 AM | Updated as of Feb 18 2014 05:07 PM

MANILA, Philippines - From a virtual unknown to an instant star.

That’s how Reimon Lapaza transformed in two weeks of hard work, determination and patience, besting a crack international field and completing a dream ride in Ronda Pilipinas International 2014 in style.

Lurking behind the shadows of the big guns, first behind Kiwi Jason Christie of CCN and 7-Eleven’s Cris Joven in the earlier stages, then Santy Barnachea in the Lucena-Lucena Stage Five and later Mark Galedo starting in the Lucena-Antipolo Stage Six, Lapaza made his move when no one else, particularly then leader Galedo, was watching, pulling off a scintillating run in the penultimate Stage 13 (Clark-Subic) to fashion out the biggest come-from-behind victory in the four-year Ronda tour.

“I couldn’t believe it until now,” said Lapaza, one day after becoming the newest cycling millionaire. “It’s hard to describe how I’m feeling right after I won the Ronda Pilipinas, it’s like magic.”

But for Lito Patayan, manager of Lapaza’s team Cycleline-Butuan Mindanao, it was pure hard work.

“Reimon showed us that if you work, train hard, you can realize your dreams,” said Patayan.

Lapaza, a motorcycle mechanic who only took up the sport three years ago, trained hard for the event, driven by his desire to earn a crack at the crown after finishing outside the Top 10 in the first three editions of the annual bikathon.

“I worked and trained hard. I was really determined to put in a solid showing this year,” said the 28-year-old Butuan native.

In a few days, Mindanao’s newest cycling sensation will come home a hero after pulling the rug from under former champions Galedo, Barnachea and Irish Valenzuela and humbling the foreign challenge spearheaded by eventual second placer Frenchman Peter Pouly.

“We’re going home first flight on Feb. 19 and I was told a warm reception awaits Reimon (Lapaza),” said Patayan in Pilipino.