MANILA, Philippines — What Baler Ravina could not accomplish in a local race he pulled it off with aplomb on Tuesday.
Ravina, undoubtedly one of the best climbers the country has ever seen, became the first Filipino ever to rule an international race, winning the 2012 Le Tour de Filipinas that ended Tuesday.
It was a grueling and dizzying final stage from Bayombong City over the hills and mountains connecting the Sierra Madre and Cordillera mountain ranges and the Cagayan Valley and the Mountain Province.
But Ravina did not do it all by himself.
The Pangasinense climber formed an alliance with Nueva Ecija’s Joel Calderon in the most crucial climbs and left behind even the most furious challenge from the foreign riders in the race presented by Air21 in partnership with Foton and Jinbei.
After pedaling over 133.8 kms, Ravina and Calderon, who raced under Go21 and Mail & More teams of Air21 chairman Bert Lina, held hands as they approached the Burnham Park finish before a big crowd, with Ravina gentlemanly giving stage honors to Calderon.
“Tatlong beses na along Mountain King at ilang beses na rin nag-stage winner sa local Tour, pero ngayon, nakuha ko ang napakalaking premyo,” said a teary-eyed Calderon after learning that from ninth in the general classification at the start of the final stage, he grabbed the overall title with a 16-second margin over a rider from Singapore OCBC.
Ravena and Calderon crossed the finish with identical times of four hours, 36 minutes and six seconds, numbers that denote how difficult the stage was as close to half a dozen foreign riders quit early and in the middle of the race for failing to beat the challenge of the Cordilleras.
Ravina was met at the finish by Go21 president Emer Ilagan and was greeted with congratulatory remarks by team supporter Vince Garcia, vice president of Wetshop.
Ravina toppled a 2:11 deficit in the individual general classification to snatch the crown with an aggregate time of 13:20:26 after 499.08 kms of racing from Sta. Ana in Cagayan to Tueguarao City also in Cagayan, Cauayan City in Isabela and Bayombong.
Calderon, who started the lap that featured three King of the Mountain summits at 14th overall and 3:45 behind, also made a giant leap in the general classification.
“Nagkaisa kami na magtulungan dahil ang mga foreigners ay nagtutulungan at tuwang-tuwa kami sa results,” said Calderon, the 2009 Padyak Pinoy champion.
American Vinyl/LPGMA captured the team title with a total clocking of 40:28:48 in the race, which prides itself as the only Union Cycliste Internationale race in the country. Mail & More (3:37) and Go21 (14:17) joined American Vinyl/LPGMA in the awards podium.