QUIRIMIT IS TOUR CHAMP

ARNEL QUIRIMIT TOUR CHAMPManila, May 12, 2003 -- Arnel Quirimit didn't have a prepared speech when 
he was finally crowned as the summer's chosen son yesterday, when the Air 
21 Tour Pilipinas ended at the Rizal Park.

He spoke, however, from the bottom of his heart.

"Ngayon, masasabi ko nang talagang para sa akin ito," said the 27-year-old 
Tanduay team captain, who refused to be goaded into saying the title was 
his even though most of his other rivals had given up the chase as early as 
the 13th lap.

"I'm so very very happy. Natupad din ang pangarap ko sa buhay na maging 
Tour champion," said Quirimit, who finished the 18-day, 15-lap revival of 
the summer saga on wheels with a cumulative time of 55 hours, 29 minutes 
and 20 seconds.

Quirimit, the first lap winner, floated with the main peloton 39 seconds 
after 15th lap winner Bernard Luzon to formalize his claim to the crown and 
cycling greatness.

It was a victory worth P200,000 and conceded to the Pozorrubio, Pangasinan, 
native since the penultimate 14th lap last Saturday, when he jacked up his 
overnight lead over his closest pursuer to five minutes and 20 seconds.

That cushion remained intact until yesterday's 150-km final lap that took 
the 82 remaining riders through 32 loops around the well-paved streets of 
Intramuros and finished in front of the Luneta Grandstand.

Quirimit emerged as the first Tour champion of the 21st century aside from 
joining the ranks of such illustrious past winners as Antonio Arzala, Jose 
Sumalde, Cornelio Padilla Jr. and Jacinto Sicam.

He dedicated his victory to his provincemates who have long longed for a 
true-blue Pangasinense to win the title. Binalonan's Pepito Calip topped 
the 1985 edition while San Manuel-born and Antipolo-based Bernard Llentada 
copped the 1991 crown.

Quirimit said he had a feeling even before the Tour, which took the 84 
starters as far north as Laoag and as far south as Sorsogon, started last 
April 26 that he would win this year's edition.

"Ang tingin ko talaga, malaki ang tsansa ko ngayon dahil malakas ang 
pakiramdam ko at maganda ang pakita ko sa ensayo ko," he said.

It would turn out to be a rollercoaster ride.

Doubts began creeping in when he lost the overall lead to Merculio Ramos 
Jr. after the fourth lap, when Quirimit dropped to what would be his lowest 
placing in the overall ladder.

He bounced back with a win in the Lucena-to-Tagaytay 5th stage and also 
ruled the Tagaytay-Marikina 6th leg, the results of which were nullified 
due to a directional snafu.

He regained the yellow jersey after the Vigan-Laoag team time trial 10th 
lap, but lost it the next day to Enrique Domingo in the grind to San 
Fernando, La Union.

He regained the overall leadership after the first of two crucial climbs to 
Baguio and refused to let go despite desperate attempts by Rhyan Tanguilig 
of Pagcor, the only non-RP Team member among the top six.

Samsung skipper Ramos wound up second overall, followed by Intel and Pagcor 
counterparts Warren Davadilla and Tanguilig and DENR Eco Savers' Ronald 
Gorrantes.

Also landing top 10 slots with a minimum guaranteed purse of P10,000 were 
DOTC Postmen's Enrique Domingo, Patrol 117's Luzon, Pagcor's Lloyd 
Reynante, Bowling Gold's Alfie Catalan and BIR VAT Riders' Felix Celeste, Jr.

Davadilla's Intel, which latched on to the lead after the fifth lap and 
held on to it with a death-grip, topped the overall team competition and 
the P1 million prize with an aggregate clocking of 219:15.46.1, 16 minutes 
and 35.53 seconds ahead of Domingo's Postmen.

Postmen finished second for P500,000 in the event also supported by Accel, 
Lipovitan, Longines, BPI-MS, San Mig Light, Philtranco, Look-Vittoria-Selle 
Italia, followed by Samsung (P200,000), Tanduay (P125,000), Eco Savers 
(P80,000), Patrol 117 (P65,000), VAT Riders (P60,000), PagcorSports 
(P55,000), Bowling Gold, Gilbey's Island Punch, DILG Drug Busters and 
PLDT-NDD. (By NOLI CORTEZ, Malaya)

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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