CALBAYOG CITY – Judging from the outcome of Wednesday’s of Stage 6 of the 2nd Ronda Pilipinas, overall leader Baler Ravina of Roadbike Phils. is one pretty shrewd rider.
Intent on retaining the LBC red jersey since winning the taxing 227-kilometer Tagum-to-Butuan leg last Saturday, Ravina instigated an early breakaway with 14 other cyclists in assaulting the first King-of-the-Mountain portion at the 40.1-km mark in the town of Sta. Rita.
But anchoring the lead pack for the next 120 kilometers expectedly took its toll on the 33-year-old Asingan, Pangasinan pride, relaxing in the last two kilometers to leave One Tarlac’s Sherwin Diamsay and Mindanao’s Jay Tolentino to battle it out for stage honors in the 170-km trip from Tacloban City, Leyte.
Clocking three hours, 58 minutes and 22 seconds after crossing the finish line in Leyte’s top commercial and industrial city, Diamsay, a native of the farming town of Pura, Tarlac, was rewarded with the top stage prize of P50,000.
Checking in with the same time, Tolentino, actually from Guimba, Nueva Ecija but picked by the Mindanao squad, had the same time and got P25,000 for placing second in the bikefest presented by LBC and supported by Total, MVP Sports Foundatin, Rudy Project, IcomIdas and DHL.
Grizzled campaigner Warren Davadilla of Metro Manila, who was also part of the lead pack, finished 24 seconds behind Diamsay (3:58.46) and took third place, worth P15,000, while Diamsay’s teammate, Joseph Millanes (3:58.49) was fourth and earned P10,000 for his efforts.
“Sinundan ko lang ang payo ni Ravina na magtulong-tulong kami pagkatapos makakalas sa malaking grupo,” said Diamsay, whose best finish in a major bike event was fourth overall in the 2004 Air 21 Tour Pilipinas won by Rhyan Tanguilig.
He added that keeping himself out front was also a means of helping teammate Joseph Millanes, who vaulted from fifth to second overall after yesterday’s lap, 59 seconds behind Ravina, with an aggregate time of 24:54.58.
Slipping down a notch was V-Mobile’s Oscar Rendole, who suffered cramps with 15 kilometers to go and wound up 23rd (4:00.32) for a 25:55.36 aggregate, 1:37 off the pacesetting Le Tour de Filipinas titlist (24:53.59).
“Nandito na yong overall sa akin, kaya pinangatawan ko na. Sayang rin naman,” said Ravina’s decision to engineer the breakaway and persuade his fellow frontrunners to help each other the rest of the way in the last Visayan stop of the multi-stage bikathon before it heads for Luzon.
Left unsaid was the fact that having Millanes, a known sprinter, as his closest pursuer could serve Ravina well instead of having Rendole, an uphill specialist, hounding him for the P1 million prize up for grabs.
Literally looming ahead are two difficult uphill stages: the eighth from Daet-to-Lucena and ninth from Lucena-to-Antipolo.
Collectively benefitting from yesterday’s result were the Tarlac riders, who were in fifth spot in the team overall standings entering yesterday’s stage but rose to second. They’re within striking distance and merely seven seconds behind pacesetting V-Mobile (73:55.47) at 73:55.54.
Roadbike Phils., whose skipper Mark Galedo suffered a flat at the 50-km point, slipped from second to third (73:56.30) while Mindanao (73:57.33) and Metro Manila (73:57.48) went up again to fourth and fifth, respectively.
Organizers decided to prolong the neutral zone to 14 kilometers that took the riders and the entire Ronda caravan through the Pan Philippine Highway, passing the sprawling 2.16-kilometer San Juanico Bridge, a legacy of the late President Marcos, connecting Leyte and Samar.
But like thoroughbreds chomping at the bit, the cyclists quickly jockeyed for position once they were released through the narrow but well-paved course that was hit by a downpour 30 kilometers into the race.
Pouncing on the situation, Ravina then assaulted the first KOM with Rindole, Millanes, Diamsay, Davadilla, Navy-Standard Insurance’s Lloyd Lucien Reynante and Mindanao’s Rhiemon Lapaza, among others, following his lead.
The pacesetters were never threatened, although the cramps-stricken Rendole had to fall back just outside the town of Santa Margarita, while the overall leader, who wound up in seventh place, stepped off the pedal in the last two kilometers to the finish line in front of the Calbayog City hall.
There were two casualties yesterday, reducing the field to 86 riders with 10 stages left in the event.
The biggest was One Tarlac’s Daniel Asto, who was running ninth overall but suffered a broken bike chain and had to be picked up by the broom wagon while Philippine team member Salvador Salvador took a spill and broke his left collarbone.
It will be another rest day for the cyclists tomorrow as they take ferry from Port Allen here to Matnog, Sorsogon before checking in in Legazpi City where the world-famous Mayon Volcano is located.
Action resumes on Friday with Stage 7, a flat and short 115-km. drive from Legazpi to Naga City in Camarines Sur.
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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