Felicisimo Tapec is synonymous with his green racer bike. It would not be him without the bike and the bike would not be it without him.
Felicisimo Tapec always competed in those fiesta races. And the whole of Almaguer would line the gravel road to cheer for him whenever a race passes by. But he never won.
Felicisimo Tapec, like the rest of Almaguer and Bambang, would converge in the sasang-atan every year for that most anticipated event of summer. A trickle of support vehicles will confirm that the race will indeed pass that way, whose arrival would later be announced by the passing of a funny F1-like car that calls itself the Spearhead.
Lupo Alava of Bagabag always have a plastic of crushed ice for him from Felicisimo Tapec who will be waiting with his green racer bike in the sasang-atan. Lupo Alava was at that time Nueva Vizcaya’s bet for the Tour.
Lupo Alava was Rookie of the Year in 1980. He did not win the Tour and retired 5 years later but not after bringing over a kailyan.
Ariel Marana the kailyan was the next best thing Nueva Vizcaya had for a Tour champion for a time. A perennial contender and runner-up, he was a consistent Eagle of the Mountain and was comfortably ahead in the overall standings when an over zealous fan in Nueva Vizcaya threw a pail of water at him, including the pail. The injuries he sustained in that accident caused him to quit the race the next day. That’s what’s been told by the blow-by-blow account of M1 Earl “The Pearl” Sapelino.
Ariel Marana won laps, especially those coveted killer Baguio laps, but did not win the Tour. He retired like that but not after parting the curtain for a kaanakan.
Carlo Guieb the kaanakan introduced himself to the Philippines by winning 2 consecutive laps in Baguio. He went on to become the Rookie of the Year that summer.
Carlo Guieb led by 46.12 seconds with one lap to go in the summer of 1991 when Bernardo Llentada, carbon loaded with 2 bowls of spaghetti and employing a never-seen-before aerobar and disc wheel, snatched glory away from him in that individual time trial.
Carlo Guieb did come back from that disappointment with Domingo Quilban, Nueva Vizcaya’s first Tour champion in 1969, for a coach and won the Tour twice in 1993 and 1994.
Carlo Guieb thus became a legend by becoming the only Tour ng Pilipinas back-to-back champion (the rest of the back-to-backs won in the Luzon only edition).
Carlo Guieb, his name carved in the mighty mountains where he did his greatest races, retired after sometime. In his place came another mountain man from Aritao.
Rhyan Tanguilig of Aritao, coming off a sagely advice from the great Carlo Guieb, won the killer Baguio lap in 2004 and crowned himself that summer’s king of the road.
Felicisimo Tapec today is a grandfather. Lupo Alava now raises fish in Lamut, Ariel Marana is stateside, Carlo Guieb runs a transport business in Bagabag, Domingo Quilban still coaches from time to time, and Ryan Tangulig an OFW in Dubai. I miss M1. But I will always be the young fan who will wait for hours along the road to salute his heroes as they pass by…