He left his hometown virtually unknown, and he is back as "king" - talk of the town, and the subject of netizen-cyclists.
Junrey Navarra, 20, of Barangay Acmonan, this municipality, Ronda Pilipinas 2013 “King of the Mountain (KOM)” has cemented a name on the national cycling scene, foiling back-to-back KOM titlist Irish Villanueva's three - peat attempt, by ruling the 133.7 kms. Killer lap from Bayombong, Nueva Vizcaya to Baguio.
Navarra, a rookie cyclist, has astounded the crowd, the Mindanao biking enthusiasts, his family and friends in Tupi, and even himself.
In a courtesy call with Tupi Mayor Reynaldo S. Tamayo, Jr.,at the latter's office, Wednesday,February 6, Navarra narrated how he had sacrificed before reaching his goal.
“Napakahirap ng training –at dahil sa kapos sa pera muntik na akong mag quit” (The training is hard – and due to lack of budget, I was about to quit) Navarra said adding "Buti nalang napagtagumpayan ko ang hirap ng training." (Good that I was able to survive the rigorous training.)
“Out of the 2,000 cyclists that had tried out in Tarlac only 96 were selected, and only four came from Mindanao,” Navarra said in Filipino.
“To complete our team of eight cyclists – we imported four (4) from Luzon to the Mindanao – Cycleline Butuan team,” Navarra said.
“Even then, we were treated as underdog, am so happy that our team had recognized my uphill strength and skill, and – so we planned the night before the race” Navarra narrated, “With the help of my teammates, we were able to execute our plan and luckily I had made it” he added.
Navarra started honing his biking skills with the Tupi Mountain Bikers Association (Tumba), a local biking group here, when he was 18 years old.
A year after, he started winning titles from various cycling races in Mindanao. These had opened opportunity for him to be discovered by Lito Patayan, manager of Cycleline biking team from Butuan.
With his stunning KOM award, Navarra is now receiving offers from commercial cycling team. He was offered by a national team to train in Manila for an opportunity to compete in Europe.
He, however, promised not to leave his Mindanao Cycleline Team that had given him the oppurtuity and support he needs. “Babalik pa rin ako sa team ko, gusto ko matulungan ang Mindanao team upang maiangat ito sa hanay ng mga magagaling na siklista sa bansa” ( I will still go back to Mindanao team so I can help elevate its status into the best cycling team in the country), Navarra narrated.
In Gen. Santos City, Navarra was welcomed by fellow cyclists and benefactors with a motorcade around the city and a victory party.
His winning, has opened the doors for other aspiring cyclists to follow his footsteps. “Maraming pang mga potentials na siklista sa ating bayan na pwedeng mag excel kapag mabigyan lang ng suporta” There are other potentials cyclists in Tupi that would excel if given the proper support” Navarra said.
“Peter Gregorio, one of my closest rival in several racing event is one good potential cyclists” Navarra told in local dialect.