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Esteve Hora Jr. triumphs in thrilling victory at Go For Gold Criterium Race Series 1

Esteve Hora Jr. sprinted in the last few hundred meters with all his might to win the men’s elite race of the Go For Gold Criterium Race Series 1 on Sunday at the iconic Sacobia Bridge in Clark, Pampanga.

Slicing through the field in a high-velocity bunch finish, Hora accelerated past his rivals with 75 meters left to reach the line in 53 minutes and 30.97 seconds, capping a long festive day of cycling.

The designated sprinter from Standard Insurance nosed out Mervin Corpuz of Excellent Noodles Pro Team (53:31.00) and Go For Gold Cycling Team’s Aidan James Mendoza (53:31.10) in a daring display of skill and grit.

“Nakakita ako ng pagkakataon kaya binuhos ko na lahat. Masaya ako dahil naipakita ko ang kakayahan ko,” said Hora from San Manuel, Pangasinan.

Veteran Ronald Oranza of Standard Insurance checked in fourth, sharing the time with Mendoza, while Marc Ryan Lago of Go For Gold wasn’t far behind, .21 seconds back.

With over 400 cyclists participating in 10 different categories, the kickoff leg of the three-leg race series supported by Go For Gold, Scratchit, Magene, SPN Cycle, Booster C Energy Shot, Hytera, Cycles and Brew, and Royce Hotel aims to bring back the animated local atmosphere in the sport.

“Quality races have significantly decreased here in the Philippines. We want to bring them back starting with this criterium series,” said Go For Gold founder Jeremy Go.

Kim Bonilla raced in the women’s junior and open categories and won both, with the sprinter from Team Bikexzone/Champbullies getting the better of her veteran teammate Jermyn Prado in the open.

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Bonilla topped the open in 49:06.07 before Prado arrived (49:24.62), followed by Althea Campana (50:28.12) to complete the podium.

Bonilla ruled the junior race early in the day by clocking 40:24.48 ahead of Maria Michaela Mandel (41:06.54) and Roselle Suarez (41:06.64).

Go For Gold reigned supreme in the men’s junior with the duo of Marvic Mandac (36:38.52) and Mac BJ Arellano (36:42.67) pulling off a 1-2 finish before third-placer Josiah Nudo (36:43.04) checked in.

Jomel Delos Santos of Team Aurum Cycling ruled the men’s youth in 35:11.09, beating Roy Benedict Plastina (35:12.39) to the line while Jerick Cabael of Ginleecycling placed third in 35:25.25 in the race backed by the Integrated Cycling Federation of the Philippines (PhilCycling).

The Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) and Clark Development Corporation (CDC) also made the race possible along with NLEX, SCTEX, and NLEX Connector.

“We received good feedback from everyone. I thank the sponsors and the teams that participated. We hope they will continue to support our races,” said Go, the sports patron who likewise supports triathlon, basketball, and volleyball, among others.

The next stop for the race series is Cebu come July as Go For Gold aims to find new cycling talents in the Visayas region.

According to Go For Gold project director Ednalyn Hualda, the third leg will be in Mindanao sometime in September or October.

“Cebu is a very special place for Go For Gold as some of our athletes come from Cebu. We want to go there and discover more potentials and of course from the entire Visayas as well,” said Go.

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“I hope more teams will join us in the succeeding races as we aim to have a united cycling community in the country,” added Go, who raced in the manager’s division.

Leonel Dimaano won the men’s 30-39 category in 38:22.95 while Jeffrey Monton of Team Opus (39:04.50) and Rico Fernandez (39:04.64) joined Dimaano on the medal stand.

Nazaer Dukiling of Ilocano Express Racing Team topped the manager’s category in 33:17.81 with Jonathan Rocafor (33:18.59) and Galiga Enrique Nicolas (33:19.42) placing second and third.

Veteran cyclist Ronnel Hualda ruled the men’s 40 and above in 38:36.12 followed closely by Arnel Aves (38:36.54) and Resty Aragon (38.36.80).

In the men’s under-23, the tandem of Jexxel Azur and Steven Nicolas Tablizo from Standard Insurance placed first and second in narrowly defeating Go For Gold’s Kristian De Lena.

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