Sports Eye

Pepito Calip’s amazing Tour ’85 victory

By Jesus A. Garcia Jr.


BINALONAN native son and former professional cyclist Pepito F. Calip left this world unjustly last March 19. Hopefully, the authorities will soon determine the motive behind his killing, identify and jail the assassins to give justice to the fallen cycling hero of Pangasinan who brought honors to the province in the field of sports.

Calip, who is like a brother to us, his co-cyclists, was the 13th Pangasinense to win a multi-stage cycling road race called (then) Marlboro Tour in 1985, a 21-day lung-busting road saga that traversed key cities in Luzon and Visayas that started in Cebu City and ended in Quezon City. There were 10 teams composed of 43 elite riders and 17 rookies who participated in that second longest cycling road race in Asia, with a total distance of 4,017 kilometers. The longest then was the 24-day 1977 Tour ng Pilipinas won by the late Manuel Reynante.

Calip’s win in that 1985 race was unusual because Calip was not in the circle of top three finishers throughout but he wrested the overall leadership from fifth place with a minute 38 seconds. But before he won it, many unexpected turn of events happened in that race.

Fortunately, I managed to take a one-month vacation from Guam that time just so I could watch the bikefest throughout and to give our local bets the moral support. So I still vividly recall the controversy that our very own 1983 Marlboro Tour champion, the late Romeo Bonzo of Sual, found himself in. Romeo, then the overall leader after the 16th stage (Vigan, Ilocos Sur – San Fernando, La Union), was penalized one minute and 30 seconds by the race officials due to unsportsmanlike conduct against his own teammate Reynaldo Cabingas. That penalty caused him to plunge from No. 1 to No. 3 in the individual overall standing. Romeo, who was then the skipper of the team, had accused Cabingas for insubordination and hit Cabingas in the nape during the 16th stage. Infuriated about the unfair verdict by the race officials, the principled son of a fisherman and younger brother of 1976 Tour of Luzon king Modesto Bonzo, quit the race and relinquished the yellow jersey (symbolic of overall leadership) to second running Rodolfo Redimano before the start of the 217-kilometer mountain challenge’s 17th stage Baguio-Naguilian-Baguio-Marcos-Agoo killer lap. (That was won by Reynaldo Dequito of Valenzuela City). Then, the instant overall leader Redimano also abandoned the race during that stage due to foot injury.

It was Calip, inspired by the presence of his town mates at the starting line, who wore the yellow jersey for the first time in his life, as he rode off for the 18th stage’s 36-kilometer individual time trial from Saytan, Rosario, La Union to Burnham Park, Baguio City via Kennon Road in an amazing time of one hour, 12 minutes, 51 seconds. (Not 1:15:47 as I earlier reported) This record still stands until now.

The results of the remaining three laps turned to be moot and academic.

Yes, Calip won the race convincingly dislodging defending champion and my townmate Ruben Cariño who finished second with 11 minutes adrift. Back-to-back (1981-1982) champion, the late Jacinto Sicam of San Manuel, landed third for a sweep of the podium dais by the Pangasinenses, which was third time to happen in Tour history.

May the Almighty God rest his soul in peace.

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QUOTE OF THE WEEK: Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. ACTS 1:9

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