DAVAO CITY – American Vinyl-LPGMA cyclist Cris Joven had one wish for his 26th birthday last Thursday: to win one leg in the Second LBC Ronda Pilpinas.
On Friday, the 26-year-old pride from Iriga City, Camarines Sur got his desire, outduelling Mark Galedo of Roadbike Phils. in the last 50 meters for a riveting photo-finish victory in the second stage of the 2nd LBC Ronda Pilipinas that wound up here on Friday.
After Joven and Galedo broke away from the lead pack with 10 kilometers to go, both cyclists jockeyed for top spot the rest of the way before the former spurted in the last 50 meters to clinch his first leg win in a major bike race.
Joven ruled the 145.1-km. race from General Santos City through the narrow, winding and slightly bumpy downhill ride to the country’s undisputed fruit basket in a time of three hours, 39 and 55 seconds in the event presented by LBC and supported by Total, MVP Sports Foundation and Rudy Project.
“Duon pa General Santos City nanalangin ako kahapon (Thursday) na gabayan ako at manalo ako sa stage na ‘to, at binigay naman,” said Joven, who pocketed the top individual stage prize of P50,000 in the 16-stage bikefest.
Galedo, who made his move by ruling the second King-of-the Mountain stage at the 134.2-km. point, took home P25,000 while unheralded Eastern Pangasinan rider Emil Pablo, 25, came at head of the main breakaway group and took third (3:40.05), worth P15,000.
“Sinabi ni Cris na magtulungan kami dahil mabibigat ang mga kalaban sa likod namin at pumayag naman ako,” said Galedo, the 2009 Tour of Luzon champion. “Pero alam din niya na magbabanatan din naman kami pagdating sa dulo, at walang bigayan.”
While the big guns like Joel Calderon, Irish Valenzuela, Arnel Quirimit, Warren Davadilla and Baler Ravina were closely marking each other in the lead pack, Pablo quietly slipped under their noses as the former teammate of defending champion Santy Barnechea pedalled his way to his first ever podium finish.
“Medyo nakalusot lang po,” said soft-spoken Pablo, who also hails from Umingan, Pangasinan like Barnechea, of his surprise showing.
One Tarlac’s Tomas Martinez, who wore the LBC red jersey after topping the first stage that ended in General Santos City last Thursday, held on to the overall lead after finishing in the 10-man third group which came in with identical clockings of 3:40.40.
Martinez retained the lead with an aggregate time of 8:31.31 while Army-RC Cola’s Alvin Benosa, who checked in with the former, and was just 11 seconds behind in second place (8:31.42) while V-Mobile’s Oscar Rendole slipped one rung to third (8:31.45).
Pleased by the outcome of Galedo was Roadbike Phils. team manager Bong Sual, who has promised to give his charges a motorized tricycle each should anyone of them place among the top three in each stop.
“Nakakaisa na si MacMac (Galedo’s nickname pero alam ko mararami ang mangyayari sa mga susunod na stage,” said Sual, who is also the Philcycling Road Commission chairman.
One Tarlac retained the overall team lead with cumulative tally of 24:43.46, now just 12 seconds up on second running V-Mobile (13:42.32) while Army-RC Cola was in third (24:46.32).
Mindanao moved up to fourth (24:46.68) and Roadbike Phils. rose two notches to fifth place (24:47.09), but reigning team champion American Vinyl-LPGMA continued to languish in 11th place (25:00.23), 16:37 off the leader.
“Marami sa mga rider ko tinamaan ng cramps sa first stage,” said AV-LPGMA coach Renato Dolosa, referring to skipper Irish Valenzuela, Rudy Roque and Ronnel Hualda, for their sluggish start in the multi-stage bikathon.
Beside their rivals and the road conditions, the cyclists likewise had to cope with traffic in downtown Davao City, which was still tight for about a half-hour as they neared the finish line; fortunately no one was hurt despite the situation.
A major shakeup in the individual and team overall standings is expected as the riders brace for longest – and perhaps toughest – leg in Stage 3: a backbreaking 227-km. marathon run from Tagum City to Butuan City, the “Timber City of the South.”
“Malalaking pagbabago ang mangyayari kasi mahaba ang ruta at maraming ahon-lusong,” said Dolosa. “Malaking reshuffle ‘yan.”
Sual echoed Dolosa’s sentiments, saying: “Maaring malaki ang pagbabago sa team at individual standings dahil nga ito ang pinakamahaba ang stage na susunod. Pero handa kami para rito.”
Race director Rick Rodriguez said that the course was “undulating virtually from start to end. It also has two Category 4 climbs.”
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