LUCENA CITY – When he won Stage 6 of the Ronda Pilipinas last Wednesday, One Tarlac’s Sherwin Diamsay used his sprinting ability to do so.
On Saturday, Diamsay proved that he is one heck of a mountain-climber, too.
The 32-year-old pride of Pura, Tarlac showed off his uphill skills in a daring daredevil run that drove him to the top of Stage 8, generating a major upheaval in the standings at the end of the taxing and eventful 209.2-kilometer run here on Saturday.
Diamsay was part of the an early 10-man breakaway group that struck at the first King-of-the-Mountain segment at the 51.6-km mark before surging ahead for good after conquering the rugged and treacherous “Tatlong M” in Atimonan, Quezon, 30 kilometers from the finish line.
He soloed home on the narrow streets of downtown Lucena leading to the end of the race from Daet, Camarines Norte in front of the Quezon provincial capitol in five hours, 16 minutes and 36 seconds.
American Vinyl-LPGMA skipper Irish Valenzuela, who was in the lead pack as Diamsay, finished 86 seconds behind to take runner-up honors (5:18.02) while unheralded mountain bike specialist Nino Surban of Y101-FM Cebu was a surprise third (5:18.12).
“Talagang pinakita ko na may galing din ako sa pag-ahon,” said Diamsay, who broke his left collar bone competing abroad in 2010, in pocketing another P50,000 in the summer cycling spectacle on wheels presented by LBC and supported by Total, MVP Sports Foundation, Rudy Project, IcomIdas and DHL.
A rice farmer when not racing, Diamsay became the second double-stage champion of the bikefest after Navy-Standard Insurance’s Jan Paul Morales, who earlier won the fourth and seventh stages.
“Baka nakatulong rin yong pag-lock ng breaks ko sa pag-lusong mula sa Tatlong M,” he quipped after zooming down the winding and tricky descent at a breakneck speed of 50 kilometers per hour before finally regaining his breaks on the flat road.
“Hindi ko akalain nakaka-third place ako dahil nanggaling pa ako sa chase group,” said the lanky Surban, a bronze medalist in last year’s Southeast Asian Games in Indonesia, of this podium finish. “Ang gusto ko lang matulungan ko ang team ko.”
Smart enough to keep in step with the breakaway riders, AMV-LPGMA’s Cris Joven placed seventh after yesterday’ stop and was the biggest gainer in the chase for the top individual prize of P1 million by leapfrogging from fourth to first place to emerge as the new overall leader.
“Pagbubutihin ko na lang po para mapanatili ko ang overall. At sana matulungan ko pa rin ang mga teammates ko,” said the soft-spoken Iriga City pride of his latest blessing following his Stage 2 victory on May 24, a day after he celebrated his 26th birthday.
Joven now leads the way with an aggregate time of 32:49.51, 1:33 up on new overall runner-up Ronald Gorantes of Metro Manila (32:51.24), relegating V-Mobile’s Oscar Rendole, in second going to Stage 8, to third (32:51.28).
Buried in the avalanche of yesterday’s outcome was erstwhile frontrunner Baler Ravina of Roadbike Phils., who was stripped of the LBC red jersey after struggling into 71st spot (5:27.20) in a stage that many thought he would dominate given his reputation as an uphill expert.
“Nahilo ako sa last 15 kilometers at hindi na nakabawi,” complained Ravina, who went into a freefall in the classification and is now in 18th overall (32:57.38), 7:47 behind Joven.
Although there’s still a slight chance he could come back, he conceded it would be doubly hard because of the hole he and his team dug themselves in.
“Siguro nalaspag dahil lagi sa akin nakatutok ang mga kalaban,” added Ravina, who took down his squad with him, plunging from third to ninth overall in the team standings (98:00.58) following his dispirited showing.
Roadbike Phils. is now a distant 25 minutes and 27 seconds behind new overall team leader One Tarlac (97:35.31), dislodging V-Mobile, which dipped to second (97:40.43) while Metro Manila moved up to third (97:41.38), nursing a five-second gap over fourth running Navy-Standard Insurance (97:41.43).
Compounding the woes of the charges of Roadbike Phils. team manager Bong Sual was the dropping out of noted sprinter Ericson Obosa and youthful John Mark Camingao, who both failed to meet the time limit and reduced the team to four members for the remaining stages.
“As I have been saying all along, this is a make-or-break stage for the riders and teams,” noted race director Rick Rodriguez of yesterday’s major overhaul.
“It is all in the matter of tactics: yong maagap ang siyang mangunguna habang yong mga tutulog yon gang mahuhuli,” he said. “Yong nagpapahuli di parang nagkayod kalabaw at di na nakaabot, lalo na makikitid yong mga daan na kanilang dinaanan.”
Indeed, most of the riders who took off after the first KOM found themselves way ahead of the peloton, including Diamsay, Valenzuela, Elmo Ramos, Rustom Lim, Frederick Feliciano and Joven, among others.
At one stage this lead group enjoyed a 5-minute-seven-second lead over the main bunch that Ravina was a part of.
The lead group was barely scaling the Tatlong M when Diamsay was already speeding down the mountain inside the Quezon National Forest Park on the way to a cruising victory.
Hardly have they worn off the effects of yesterday’s tiring haul that the riders tackle again another uphill stage tomorrow, a 155.1-km travel from here to Antipolo City highlighted by two tough climbs, one a Category 2 at the 118.9-km portion and a Category 3 31 kilometers later, near the finish line at the Rizal provincial capitol.
For more 2012 LBC Ronda Pilipinas highlights videos and pictures, go to the website www.rondapilipinas.com, Facebook at www.facebook.com/RondaPilipinas, the Ronda Pilipinas Channel on Youtube and Twitter @rondapilipinas.
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