BUTUAN CITY – His rivals knew that it was only a matter of time before Baler Ravina of Roadbike Phils. made his move in the 2nd LBC Ronda Pilipinas.
What they didn’t reckon was it would happen so soon.
Ravina ruled the marathon Stage 3 on Saturday, a race tailor-made for someone with his uphill skills and guile. In the victory, the seasoned Ravina taught youthful Rustom Lim of American Vinyl-LPGMA a thing or two about big time road racing.
Ravina outwitted Lim after they broke away in the steep portion 27 kilometers from the finish line and engaged in a thrilling cycling battle royale in the last 10 kilometers en route to ruling the strength-sapping 227-km. grind that began under the scorching sun in Davao City.
With 500 meters to go, Lim was struck by cramps on his left thigh, enabling Ravina, the 33-year-old pride of Asingan, Pangasinan to solo past the finish line in a time of five hours, 47 minutes and 19 seconds to secure the top stage prize of P50,000 in this premier city in Agusan del Sur.
Lim salvaged runner-up honors (5:47.21), worth P25,00, while veteran Warren Davadilla of Metro Manila came rallying back to bag third place (5:47.4) and received P10,000 in the biking spectacle presented by LBC and backed by Total, MVP Sports Foundation, Rudy Project and ICOMIDAS.
“Hindi lang nagpaparamdam kay Rustom, pero nag-kakacramps na rin ako pagkatapos kami mag-breakaway,” said Ravina, who is eyeing his second major triumph after capturing the Le Tour de Pilipinas last month, in winning the lung-busting leg.
“Medyo magulang din si Baler, pero hinayaan ko na lang kasi mas ayokong masayang ang pinagpaguran ko dahil may mga papapalapit sa likod,” rued Lim, 19, who led his experienced rival until being hit by cramps in the last half-kilometer to the finish.
While having no intention of topping the stage, Ravina said he welcomed the opportunity to wear the LBC red jersey, symbol of overall leadership, in pooling a time of 14:20.33, which vaulted him to first after running 15th before the beginning of Stage 3.
“Okay na rin ito, maski hindi ko inaasahan kasi matagal pa naman ang karera,” Ravina said. “Pagtutulungan na lang namin ng mga kasamahan ko.”
Oscar Rindole of V-Mobile moved up one notch to second overall, 30 seconds off the new pacesetter at 14:21.23 while American Vinyl-LPGMA’s Cris Joven, who clinched the second stage from General Santos to Davao City last Friday, wheeled into third spot (14:21.22).
Expectedly, Ronda’s longest stage triggered a major shakeup in the standings, with erstwhile overall leader Tomas Martinez of One Tarlac being the biggest casualty after checking in at 18th place 5:49.19, relegating him to 16th overall (14:24.09).
Roadbike Phils. team manager Bong Sual said that their team strategy was not to make an impact early in the event, but nevertheless was happy for Ravina’s double whammy.
“Ang strategy talaga ay huwag biglain at unti-unting tumaas sa bawa’t lap,” Sual said. “Pero nandiyan na yan kaya kailangan iba naman ang mag-trabaho sa mga susunod pang mga leg.
“Dalawa ang magagaling na climbers naming na si Baler at si Macmac (Galedo) pero kailangan muna silang magpahinga at hahayaan ko naman ang iba ang kumayod. Pahinga muna sila.”
V-Mobile survived Roadbike Phils. onslaught and managed to cling to team overall lead (42:11.16) behind new second placer Mindanao (42:12.23) while Roadbike Phils. likewise rose to third place and within striking distance of the frontrunning squad (42:13.30).
Among those those watching intently in the afternoon gallery as the riders crossed the finish line was Marlboro Tour veteran Rex Pitao, also renowned for his mountain-climbing prowess and finished seventh overall twice in 1993-194 when Carlo Guieb was the back-to-back champion.
The cyclists will have a chance to recover from yesterday’s rigorous run when they hit the road in the relatively flat and short fourth leg, a 118-km. drive from here to Surigao City, the provincial capital of Surigao del Norte.
“The riders cannot take it easy here because there will be a lot of rough roads on this course because they might wind up with flats if they are not careful,” said race director Rick Rodriguez
The only uphill portion will be at the 67.5-km. point, just nearly 11 kilometers after the famous Lake Buhi, where the sinarapan, the smallest commercially-harvested fish, thrives.
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