REWIND to February 1, 2013. In one of the most memorable moments of the Ronda Pilipinas tour, champion Irish Valenzuela sealed his celebration atop the podium by giving the Ronda girl a hearty kiss.
Now, Irish and the girl are preparing to celebrate their first anniversary as a couple on March 15.
“Opo, kami na po,” Valenzuela told Spin.ph sheepishly when he was spotted during a rest day in this year's tour in the company of his girlfriend, Princess Angeles of Baguio City.
They Said It!
“Na-kiss ko po kasi siya sa pisngi nung bago yung last stage nung nanalo rin ako, tapos bigla niya po ako niloko. Ang hina ko naman daw kumiss. Kaya sabi ko, ‘Sige bukas, patay ka sa akin'." Ronda Pilipinas tour champion Irish Valenzuela
Valenzuela’s former coach at LPGMA American Vinyl, Renato Dolosa, said he was no longer surprised that the two became an item, saying the rider is not only fast on the pedal but also quick with his (texting) fingers.
“'Yun ang naging sakit ng ulo ko dati dyan eh. Mahilig siyang makipag-text at tawagan sa mga chicks,” said Dolosa. “Syempre bata yan eh.”
“Hindi na ako nagulat nun, kasi lagi ko nga siyang nakakagalitan nun. Kasi nasa kainitan pa ang karera, puro ligaw na. Saka mahirap ihalo ang chicks sa karera. Mawawala focus,” added the 48-year-old tour legend.
Asked how he courted the lovely Ronda girl, Valenzuela said he only used his instincts.
“Nakipagpalitan lang po ako ng number. Tapos nung naramdaman ko na medyo gusto niya rin ako, tinutuloy ko na,” Valenzuela said.
As for the iconic podium kiss he gave Angeles after he ruled last year’s Ronda race, Valenzuela disclosed that it was not the first time he kissed her, having done so when he won an earlier lap.
“Na-kiss ko po kasi siya sa pisngi nung bago yung last stage nung nanalo rin ako, tapos bigla niya po ako niloko. Ang hina ko naman daw kumiss. Kaya sabi ko, ‘Sige bukas, patay ka sa akin.' Kaya bigla ko po siya dinamba nun,” recalled the 26-year-old pride of Tabaco, Albay with a laugh.
Valenzuela bared that his relationship with Angeles has not been perfect, but expressed hope that a romance that started on the winner's podium will eventually lead to an altar date.
“On and off din po kasi kami. Pero nung pagpasok ko po sa Army, binalikan ko na po siya. Steady naman kami simula nun,” the enlisted Army personnel said of his model-girlfriend.
“Kung kami po talaga … pwedeng dumiretso na sa altar ito. Kasi mas stable naman na po ako ngayon.
And Valenzuela continues to struggle in his title defense, Dolosa hopes Valenzuela’s rekindled relationship with Angeles will also lead to a resurgence for the rider in the final nine stages of the Ronda Pilipinas.
“Sana nga, yung pagbabalikan nila ni Cess makatulong para mabalik ang laro ni Irish, hindi maganda ang pwesto niya ngayon,” said Dolosa of his former ward, who was in 15th place at the break, 8:29 behind overall leader Santy Barnachea.
“Hindi pupuwedeng ganun ang oras niya, may tulog siya dyan. Andun pa sa taas ang ilang mahigpit na karibal niya gaya ni Robot (John Mark Galedo). Delikado siya run,” said the 1992 and 1995 tour champion.
Valenzuela spent Ronda’s break on Thursday resting and recharging for the tour's most crucial stretch, in the hope of making the move on the leaders.
“Rest lang muna ako ngayon sir, bukas magsisimula na tayong magtrabaho,” said the Philippine team member who ruled the same Lucena to Antipolo city stage last year.
“Gusto ko po ulit makuha yung stage na yun. Swerte sa akin yun eh.”