Reminiscing my cycling days with Ortiz, Lucas

By April 6, 2021Opinion, Sports Eye

By Jesus A. Garcia Jr.

I WAS shocked when I was informed that my cycling and age contemporaries Pacifico “Amang” Ortiz of Marikina, Rizal and Luis Lucas also of Metro Manila, both Tour of Luzon veterans, died last week, one after the other. Unfortunately, my two sources could not confirm the causes of their deaths. So, I cannot but speculate that they, too, became victims of the pandemic.

The cyclist Ortiz, better known as “Amang” among his friends and co-cyclists, will never be forgotten being one of my arch-rivals during my amateur and professional days in the fabled Tour of Luzon. I first met him competitively during the 205 kilometers 1964 National Amateur Road Race Cycling Championship hosted by Pangasinan and participated in by the best amateur cyclists in the Philippines.

The race started in Pozorrubio town and finished in capital town of Lingayen via Baguio City thru the mountainous Kennon Road and the treacherous downhill Naguilian Road in La Union. Our kabaleyan, the late Atty. Geruncio Lacuesta, as president of the Philippine Amateur Cycling Association (PACA) announced then that the top ten in this lung-busting road event will be selected as candidates for the national team for the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games, and the final six would be chosen after the succeeding four road tryouts to compose the PH squad. It was a morale boosting announcement by Lacuesta at the starting line and we, all the 70 participants became excited and determined to finish among the top ten.

It was Ortiz who crossed the summit line first in Baguio City by himself. Cornelio Padilla, Jr. came in second more than a minute behind, followed by Daniel Olivares, third, Roberto Sanchez, fourth, and me landing fifth despite suffering flat tire after passing the Baguio City General Hospital area.

Eventually, I finished fifth in Lingayen but with bad news – Ortiz suffered a serious and severe head injury due to a bad fall after miscalculating one of the hairpin turns in Sablan, La Union where he was immediately rushed to a hospital in San Fernando, LU. Comatose for two days, Ortiz was airlifted to Manila and gradually and eventually recuperated but had to skip cycling competition for at least almost a year on the advice of his physician. He tried to make a comeback and turned professional in 1965 and joined the 14-day 1965 Tour of Luzon and placed a poor 51st in the overall standing. Bicol rider and defending champion Jose Sumalde duplicated his triumph while this writer bagged the first runner-up plum.

He joined again the fabled 15-day 1966 Tour of Luzon which his teammate and Central Luzon skipper Cornelio Padilla, Jr. won.  Like in 1965 and 1966, Ortiz did not finish prominently again in the 16-day 1967 Tour of Luzon landing 61st overall. But his skipper Padilla, Jr. successfully defended his diadem. This writer finished first runner-up anew but that finish lifted the West Pangasinan squad to win the team tiara.

About the little-known Luis Lucas, also a Tour of Luzon veteran campaigner and a road warrior that despite his multiple injuries he sustained because of falls during multi-stage big races, he never quit finishing with pride.  I doff my hat to him.

And they’re both gone at 76 years of age, and now at the hands of Almighty God.

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QUOTE OF THE WEEK: The days of our lives are seventy years; and if by reason of strength they are eighty years, yet their boast is only labor and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away. PSALMS 90: 10

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