BAGUIO CITY – After being virtually silent in the previous legs of the 2nd Ronda Pilipinas, V-Mobile rider Oscar Calderon, the runner-up in last year’s inaugural edition, was no longer considered a contender and his cycling days seemed to be numbered.
On Thursday, the 32-year-old pride of Guimba, Nueva Ecija showed that his career was far from over in topping the backbreaking uphill Stage 12, highlighted by the searing comeback of Roadbike Phils.’ Mark Galedo in the last 15 kilometers to keep the overall lead.
With the risk of being overtaken by AMV-LPGMA skipper Irish Valenzuela, who checked in second, Galedo rode like hell in scrambling to third place in the 96.7-kilometer grind from Lingayen, Pangasinan to the country’s summer capital.
Proving his detractors wrong, Calderon ruled the stage in a time of two hours, 56 minutes and 10 seconds, the same time Valenzuela’s , while Galedo checked in 1:57 behind the frontrunners to secure third place in 2:58.07.
“Gusto kong patunayan na di pa ako laos,” said Calderon after stashing away the top leg prize of P50,000 in the multi-stage cycling spectacular presented by LBC and supported by Total, MVP Sports Foundation, IcomIdas, DHL and Maynilad.
In 24th overall entering yesterday’s leg, the 2009 Padyak Pinoy Tour of Champions titlist likewise climbed 16 places to eighth overall in this bikathon bankrolled by the country’s leading packaging and courier services company.
Valenzuela, who won the tough uphill Lucena-Antipolo leg last Sunday, exploited his mountain-climbing prowess again that landed him not only second – worth P25,000 – behind Calderon but also boosted him to overall runner-up behind the pacesetting Galedo, who took home P15,000 for his efforts.
Running fourth entering yesterday’s leg, the 26-year-old pride of Tabaco, Albay is within striking distance and just 57 seconds behind Galedo, who retained the LBC red jersey for the fourth consecutive stop with a cumulative time of 40:42.47.
Falling from third to sixth was Eastern Pangasinan’s Harvey Sicam (45:29.57) after he was unable to keep up with the relentless pace of a 20-man breakaway about 40 kilometers from the finish line, heading four riders who finished in a tie for 14th to 17th places at 3:03.21
“Nasunod naman yon plano namin na tumutok at huwag lumayo sa mga nasa harapan,” said Galedo, who at the 15-km. point just before entering the 500-meter Marcos Highway tunnel was around 2:45 behind the lead pack and held an overnight lead of 2:50 over Valenzuela.
Navy-Standard Insurance’s Lloyd Lucien-Reynante, who checked in fifth, retained third place but is now 2:26 off the pacesetter while V-Mobile’s Oscar Rindole was fourth in the chase for the top individual prize of P1 million.
With Calderon bagging the leg and teammate Rindole taking ninth place (2:59.52), V-Mobile also made the big jump from fourth overall to wresting the top spot in the team standings (1:35.20.27), enjoying a 5:05 lead over new second placer and reigning titlist American Vinyl-LPGMA 1:35:32, which was up three rungs from fifth last Wednesday.
Besides Valenzuela, Rustom Lim (2:59.29) and sprint leader Cris Joven (2:59.39) finished seventh and eighth, respectively, to account for the major inroads of the AMV-LPGMA riders of party-list Rep. Arnel Ty.
Navy-Standard Insurance slid to third (1:35.27.39) while erstwhile team leader Metro Manila plunged to fourth (1:35:30.51) and One Tarlac slumped to fifth (135:32.52) from third.
“Ang sabi ko sa mga bata kung hindi kami kakayod ngayong araw, wala na rin kamin pag-asa,” said AMV-LPGMA coach Renato Dolosa. “Ngayon di lang team kungdi pati sa individual malaki pa ang chance namin.”
After yesterday’s leg, veteran defending champion Santy Barnechea conceded his title-retention bid after the 36-year-old Umingan, Pangasinan native bit the dust in the face of the younger and fitter mountain-climbers, struggling in 53rd place (3:12.28).
“Sa mga bata na talaga dahil hindi ako makasabay,” said the forlorn-looking Navy Sergeant, who nosedived 18th overall (45:42.19) after being in No. 7 overnight. “Depende kung sino manalo kay Galedo o Valenzuela bukas sa Stage 13 ang magiging bagong Ronda champion.”
“Parang kabayo kung kumayod,” recalled double-stage winner Sherwin Diamsay, 32, of One Tarlac of the way some 20 cyclists spearheaded by Valenzuela and Calderon that left him and Barnechea at the first KOM portion at the 42-km. mark just past the Damortis junction in Rosario, La Union.
Roadbike Phils. team manager Bong Sual likewise said he was pleased that his charges were able to follow the gameplan in protecting Galedo’s overall lead, saying: “Alam noong mga bata kung saan bubomba at nasunod naman.”
Sual was likewise optimistic about Galedo’s chances in tomorrow’s stage, a 27.4-km. individual time trial from Tuba, Benguet to Baguio, pointing out that his bet took the bronze medal in the 50-km. ITT in last year’s Indonesia Southeast Asian Games.
”Magaling din si Baler sa ITT, kaya siguro maari rin kaming umangat sa team standings,” added Sual, whose squad remained sixth overall.
Valenzuela, who rode for Roadbike Phils. in the first Ronda, said he would continue to give his all and not give an inch to his former teammate in the race-against-the-clock from the sleepy town of Tuba on the outskirts of Baguio.
“Dito kami magkakasubukan ni Macmac (Galedo’s nickname),” Valenzuela said. “Matira ang matibay.”
Race director Rick Rodriguez said that based on their order of finish yesterday, all 75 riders remaining will be released at one-minute intervals in their reverse order, adding that the aggregate time of the top three riders of each team will also be counted in deciding their respective standings at the end of the run.
“Based on their present times, it will be a battle for the Ronda championship between Valenzuela and Galedo while Reynante and Rindole will be battling for third,” Rodriguez said.
For more 2012 LBC Ronda Pilipinas highlights videos and pictures, go to the websitewww.rondapilipinas.com, Facebook at www.facebook.com/RondaPilipinas, the Ronda Pilipinas Channel on Youtube and Twitter @rondapilipinas.
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