ANTIPOLO – American Vinyl-LPGMA’s Irish Valenzuela and Mark Galedo of Roadbike Phils. both came out big winners at the end of Stage 9 of the Ronda Pilipinas Sunday.
Members of an early 10-man team who broke away five kilometers into the race, Valenzuela beat Galedo in a down-the-wire duel after another winding 155.1-kilometer ride from Lucena that ended in front of the Rizal provincial capitol here.
A battle of both wits and stamina that escalated at the first mountain stage at the 117.9-km mark in the town of Mabitac, Rizal ended with Valenzuela emerging victorious with a frantic sprint in the last 500 meters to the delight of a crowd of nearly 1,000 composed of jersey-wearing weekend warriors.
Valenzuela won with a time of three hours, 58 minutes and 39 seconds and bagged the top stage prize of P50,000.
“Gusto ko talagang manalo sa leg na ‘to kasi di lang kabisado ko ang kurso, pero parang adopted na rin ako ng bayan ng Antipolo,” said Valenzuela, who also got a big hug from his father and fellow cyclist Kiko, a butcher at the Nepa Q Market in Quezon City.
Clocking the same time as Valenzuela, Galedo settled for second while Army-RC Cola’s John Rene Mier of Cebu, who swept past the chase group, secured third place (3:59.52) in the bikefest presented by LBC and supported by Rudy Project, MVP Sports Foundation, IcomIdas, DHL and Maynilad.
Galedo, meanwhile, raced to the top of the overall individual heap from 10th place after Sunday’s grueling leg that triggered another major reshuffle in the standings.
“Malaki ang naging recovery ko kaya nakabawi kahapon,” said Galedo, who was also rewarded with P25,000 after the runner-up finish. He disclosed that he and the other Roadbike Phils. riders were given a dextrose for six hours by team manager Bong Sual the previous night after being hydrated in the eighth stage.
“Malaking bagay na makakuha naming ang red jersey muli pagkatapos mawala kay Baler,” Galedo said, referring to teammate Baler Ravina, who held the overall lead for five straight stops but lost it after a lackluster showing in Stage 8.
Indonesia Southeast Asian Games silver medalist Galedo is now in prime position for the P1-million top prize offered by the country’s leading package and courier services company LBC with a total time of 36 hours, 53 minutes and 42 seconds.
He had a slim 16-second lead over Eastern Pangasinan’s Harvey Sicam, who rose to become the new runner-up from seventh place (36.53.58) while veteran Lloyd Lucien Reynante of Navy-Standard Insurance continued his steady ascent up the rankings for third place (36:55.21).
Valenzuela made the most dramatic leap among the big guns by 16 rungs from 20th to fourth overall (36:56.32) while national team cyclist George Oconer jumped from 16th to fifth (36:57.37).
Also making inroads was defending champion and Navy-Standard Insurance team captain Santy Barnachea, who is running sixth (36:57.43) from 13th and Ravina who scrambled back into the magic 10 from 17th place at seventh (36:58.04).
Overnight overall leader Cris Joven of AMV-LPGMA suffered a nasty spill at the railroad crossing at the 35.2-km mark and limped home at 40th place to drop to eight place (36:58.12).
There was a new frontrunner in the overall team rankings with Metro Manila seizing the upperhand (109:43.2), 95 seconds ahead of Navy-Standard Insurance (109:45.01) while erstwhile leader One Tarlac slumped to third (109:51.41). V-Mobile was fourth (109:56.33) while reigning team titlist AMV-LPGMA wounded at fifth (109.59.02).
“Umiinit na ang laban,” noted Barnachea as he and his squad have steadily risen in the standings and pose a serious threat on both individual and team fronts.
But Galedo, without referring to anyone in particular, took a dig at some of his rivals, saying: “May gustong manalo pero ayaw namang magtrabaho. Parang ‘pasahero’ lang. Dapat deserving kung mananalo sila.”
And there was no doubt among the hardest workers on Sunday were Valenzuela, Galedo and Reynante, who initiated the first breakaway at the five-kilometer mark that also included Barnachea, Metro Manila’s Warren Davadilla, Bryan Siapno, Rudy Roque and Joseph Millanes.
The lead group was eventually shattered in the first King of the Mountain stage that had Galedo and Valenzuela bolting from their foes.
Sprinters are expected to take center stage once again Monday in Stage 10, a short and relatively flat 120-km. trip from San Fernando, Pampanga to Cabanatuan City in the province of Nueva Ecija, regarded as the rice granary of the Philippines.
The mountain stage claimed two casualties – Southern Luzon-Bicol’s Dino Hipolito and national team member Gerald Mendoza, who were unable to finish because of flat tires, reducing the field to 75 riders.
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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