Felix Celeste, Jr.Dagupan City, May 5, 2003
-- - There is something about home and family that drives one to exert extra efforts.

Felix Celeste Jr., Danny Ganigan and Reynaldo Navarro proved just that by finishing 1-2-3 Sunday in the Air 21 Tour Pilipinas 2003 before the adoring eyes of their province-mates. (Standings on Page 9)

The three stuck with the lead group for most of the way before breaking off for good in the last 10 kilometers of the 247.6-km grind from Olongapo to this bustling city considered as the heart of cycling-crazy Pangasinan.

But it was Celeste, the BIR VAT Riders team captain, who had more sprinting power in the stretch, overtaking Ganigan in the last 50 meters to win by three bike's-length at the finish.

Celeste said it was the sight of his wife and two kids cheering him on at Sual town, some 18 kms to the finish, that gave him the needed boost to zoom past Ganigan, assistant skipper of the Samsung squad.

"Parang nadagdagan ang lakas ko ng makita ko ang pamilya ko," said the Urdaneta native, who is now based in Rome, Italy, along with his family but came back precisely for the qualifying of the Tour last November.

Both Celeste and Binalonan-born Ganigan, a nephew of former world boxing contender Kid Ganigan, were given identical clockings of five hours, 43 minutes and 15 seconds, four seconds ahead of Navarro, who resides in nearby San Jacinto.

Equally sporting a wide grin after the finish was overall leader Merculio Ramos, who was met by his Binalonan-born wife, Arlene, at the finish.

He kept his hold on the yellow jersey after he and most other members of the top 10 drifted in with a 17-man third group 17 seconds behind the leaders.

As a result, Ramos, the Samsung team captain, maintained his two-minute, 41-second advantage over Tanduay's Arnel Quirimit, who now stands all alone at second.

Ramos said he could have padded his lead had his breakaway attempt from the 23-man lead pack succeeded along the coastal roads of Iba.

"Ayaw talaga akong pakawalan, kaya ang ginawa ko floating na lang," said Ramos, who joined the pack that chased Ganigan's eight-man group which staged an early breakaway right outside Subic.

DILG Drug Busters'skipper Placido Valdez and Patrol 117 captain Bernard Luzon, both experiencing a slight twitch in their leg muscles, failed to keep pace with their top 10 co-members and slid down the standings.

 From a share of second, Valdez slipped to 8th while Luzon plummeted from fourth to 12th, eight seconds away from the magic circle.

Worse off was Drug Busters' Frederick Feliciano, who experienced one mechanical trouble after another and slid to 20th from 9th going into Monday's 206-km ninth lap from here to Vigan. (By NOLI CORTEZ, Malaya)

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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