REIMON Lapaza carried and executed the perfect plan to become the first cyclist from Mindanao to be crowned Tour champion.
Lapaza rode on stealth for most of the 16-day cycling marathon that covered more than 1,700 kms of flat roads and gruelling climbs in Luzon.
The motorcycle mechanic from Butuan stayed with the leaders most of the race and made a bold move in the penultimate stage from Clark to Subic.
One day was all he needed to grab the overall lead. Going into the 14th and final lap he was comfortably ahead of his nearest rivals by five minutes.
“Nagtago siya sa likod (He stayed at the back),” said Lapaza’s manager, Joselito Patayan, during Tuesday’s Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) Forum at Shakey’s Malate.
“Hindi siya napansin (He went unnoticed),” Patayan added in the same sessions presented by Shakey’s, Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp, and Accel.
Lapaza took advantage of the situation but at the same time he made sure he stayed within striking distance of the leaders – Frenchman Peter Pouly and Filipino Mark Galedo.
“Binantayan ko lang yung mga leaders lalu na yung foreigner (I kept my eyes on the leaders, especially the foreigner),” he said.
Lapaza, who is set to get a hero’s welcome on Wednesday in his native Butuan, said he’s hoping others from Mindanao will follow in his footsteps.
“Dapat mag-bike na kayo lahat (You should all go into cycling),” he said.
“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,” Lapaza added in Filipino.
The newly-crowned Tour champion was awarded the P1 million top prize but because of previous agreement with his entire team he will only get P300,000.
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.
“I’m happy with that,” said Lapaza.