PHILIPPINE cycling just lost a great, dear friend.
Cornelio Padilla, Jr., one of local cycling's greatest champions who went on to lead the sport to unprecedented heights as a lawyer and race organizer, rode his final journey on Sunday afternoon.
The tour's first back-to-back champions and one of the few cyclists to win the summer odyssey more than once, Padilla passed away due to a lingering illness.
He was 65.
The man they fondly called 'Padi’ reigned as back-to-back champion during the 1965 and '66 editions of the Tour of Luzon, validating his status as one of the biggest heroes of Philippine sports' golden era.
Padilla was also an Olympian, having competed in the 1964 Games as a student at Far Eastern University. Among his contemporaries were two-time Tour champion Jose Sumalde, Rodrigo Abaquita, Virgilio Delin, and Elpidio Camat.
But he made his biggest contributions to the sport closest to his heart after he retired from the sport, earning his law degree then becoming the tour's leader during cycling's glory years as the premier summer event in the country.
Padilla was the race director of what is believed to be the tour's longest edition - the 1977 classic that lasted over a month and covered the length and breadth of the archipelago. Another tour legend, the late Maui Reynante, ruled that race.
He was also the head of the tour when the summer classic became truly international in the nineties before the Marlboro tour folded up owing to the ban on tobacco advertising.
Padilla was the legal counsel of the book chain National Bookstore until the time of his death.