MANILA, Philippines - Reimon Lapaza is hoping that he won’t be the first and last rider from Mindanao to win the coveted Tour title.
Two days after ruling the 14-stage, 1,700-km Ronda Pilipinas, Lapaza said his victory should serve as a wake-up call and inspiration for his fellow cyclists from Mindanao.
“Dapat mag-bike na kayo lahat (You should all go into cycling),” he said during yesterday’s PSA Forum at Shakey’s Malate.
“I’m the first Tour champion from Mindanao and I’m proud of it. I hope the people of Mindanao are also proud of what I’ve done,” said the native of Butuan in Filipino.
The 28-year-old Lapaza, a motorcycle mechanic back home, employed the perfect strategy to win the title. He never won a stage but made sure he stayed in the hunt.
“Binantayan ko lang yung mga leaders lalu na yung foreigner (I kept my eyes on the leaders, especially the foreigner),” he said.
Then he made his move on the penultimate stage, the Clark-to-Subic race, and was comfortable ahead by five minutes heading into the last lap in Marikina.
The 16th and final stage was a mere victory lap for Lapaza.
Peter Pouly, a five-time mountain bike champion in France, wound up second while Filipino Mark Galedo, the overall leader most of the race, came in third.
The newly crowned Tour champion was awarded the P1 million top prize but because of previous agreement with his entire team he will only take him P300,000.
His manager, Joselito Patayan, said it was a total team effort although he added that Lapaza will get more than the rest of the team members at Cycleline Butuan Mindanao.
Lapaza looked and sounded happy with what he got. He smiled a lot as he graced the weekly sports forum, and vowed to return next year to defend the title.
He said he will keep his earnings in the bank, and has yet to decide how to spend the money, adding that he might consider putting up his own bike shop.
Lapaza tried out for the Philippine team but couldn’t understand why he was denied a spot.
“Medyo nagalit ako doon. Pero wala na po yung galit ko (That angered me but it’s gone now),” said Lapaza, adding that he used it as a motivation to win the Tour title and prove himself.
“I’m happy with the victory because there were foreigners in the field,” he added in Filipino.
“Hindi na bale hindi ako makapag-abroad. May foreigners din naman dito,” Lapaza added.