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Reimon Lapaza (center) hoists his trophy as he poses with runner-up Peter Pouly (left) and third placer Mark Galedo after winning the Ronda Pilipinas International 2014 crown in Marikina yesterday.       ERNIE PENAREDONDO

Last stage a mere formality: Lapaza Ronda Pilipinas champ
Joey Villar (The Philippine Star) - February 17, 2014 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Reimon Lapaza of Cycleline-Butuan Mindanao turned the Marikina Criterium final lap yesterday into a coronation run as he completed the biggest comeback in Ronda Pilipinas’ four-year history after a steal of a win in Stage 13.

Ranged against the cream of the country’s crop and a slew of tough foreign riders, the 28-year-old Lapaza held his ground throughout the grueling two-week race before pulling off a scintillating run in the penultimate Clark-Subic Stage 13 Saturday to snatch the overall lead and eventually the crown from erstwhile leader Mark Galedo.

At the end of the 14-stage, 16-day race that covered about 2,000 kilometers of flat roads and mountain climbing, Lapaza came out on top of the crack international field, posting a total of 45 hours, 41 minutes, 33 seconds to join the elite group of former Ronda winners, including inaugural titlist Santy Barnachea of Navy-Standard Insurance, last year’s victor Irish Valenzuela of Army and the one he admired most – Galedo.

“He’s really someone I looked up to when I joined the Ronda three years ago. I’m proud to say that I learned from him and he gave me inspiration,” said Lapaza of Galedo.

Lapaza, who pocketed P1 million and a huge trophy for his feat, also became the first champion from Mindanao.

Frenchman Peter Pouly of Infinite-Singha finished second in 45:42:40 and was named the King of the Mountain while Galedo ended up third in 45:43:08. 

Galedo, the 2012 champion who had held the red jersey majority of the way, appeared headed for another triumphant campaign heading to the final two stages with a two-minute lead after successfully fending off his pursuers’ attacks.

But Lapaza had other things in mind.

Lapaza spearheaded a breakaway group approaching the mountain in Morong, Bataan Saturday and turned in a strong fourth place finish, more than three minutes ahead of Galedo.

“God blessed me with so many things, it’s his (Lapaza) time this year and I told him he deserved it,” said Galedo, who cried after his Stage 13 debacle, which also pulled down his 7-Eleven squad from the team standings.

Taiwanese Feng Chun Kai of Team Gusto topped the last stage,  beating PLDT-Maynilad’s Ronald Oranza in a photo finish (1:42:21) in the 89-km Stage 14.

It was Feng’s third stage triumph after winning the Tagaytay-San Pablo Stage 3 and the Lucena-Lucena Stage 5.

Navy-Standard’s Barnachea, George Oconer, Lloyd Lucien Reynante, Joel Calderon, Jan Paul Morales and Rudy Roque, meanwhile, captured the team championship

“It’s a team effort, everyone contributed to this success,” said the 36-year-old Barnachea.

Navy-Standard had an aggregate time of 137:18:56, finishing ahead of a Chris Allison-mentored PLDT-Maynilad squad of Oranza, Mark Julius Bonzo, Joshua Carino, Rustom Lim, Junrey Navarra and Ronald Lomotos with 137:21:48 and 7-Eleven’s Galedo, Baler Ravina, Cris Joven, Edmundo Nicolas, Jr., Boots Ryan Cayubit and Mark Julius Bordeos with 137:31:14.

Rounding up the individual top 10 were Oconer (45:45:58), Roadbike’s Marcelo (45:48:06), Lim (45:50:19), Barnachea (45:52:32), Valenzuela (45:53:08), Reynante (45:57:32) and Oranza (45:57:54).

Oconer, son of former Olympian Norberto, was named the Best Young Rider while Im took the Sprint King honors.

BALER RAVINA BARNACHEA BATAAN SATURDAY BEST YOUNG RIDER BOOTS RYAN CAYUBIT AND MARK JULIUS BORDEOS BUT LAPAZA CHRIS ALLISON GALEDO LAPAZA STAGE
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