TACLOBAN CITY – Don’t look now, but here comes the defending team champions American Vinyl-LPGMA making its move in Stage 5 of the 2nd LBC Ronda Pilipinas on Tuesday.
Trying to regain lost ground, skipper Irish Valenzuela led the charge by topping the King-of-the-Mountain portion at the 60-kilometer mark to fashion a solo breakaway, before leaving teammates Rudy Roque and Ronnel Hualda to cap the day with a 1-2 finish for the AMV riders.
Roadbike Phils Ericson Obosa, part of the huge main pack chasing the pacesetters, caught up with Roque, Hualda and fellow AMV bet Rustom Lim in the last 200 meters to place third in the tightly-bunched finish in the 146-km ride from Ormoc City to the Leyte provincial capital here.
Roque, Hualda and Obosa clocked in with 45 other riders with identical times of three hours, 22 minutes and 11 seconds at the finish line, where they were greeted by Tacloban City Mayor Alfredo Romualdez and his wife, former actress Cristina “Kringkring” Gonzales-Romualdez, now a councilor here.
“Malaki yong pagtulungan sa amin ni Tomas Martinez sa last 20 kilometers kaya nanalo ako,” said Roque, the 21-year-old pride of Tipo Hermosa, Bataan, referring to the One Tarlac skipper who led a three-man assault with Lim and Roque.
Roque relished his first stage victory that rewarded him with P50,000, Hualda got P25,000 while Obosa, who was runner-up in the previous lap, took home P15,000 in this event presented by LBC and supported by Total, MVP Sports Foundation, Rudy Project, IcomIdas and DHL.
“Mahaba rin kasi ang trinangkuhan ko kaya napagod din ako, si Roque at Lim ang nagpatuloy,” said Valenzuela, the winner of last year’s fourth stage who got reeled in by the main pack, led by overall leader, Baler Ravina with 30 kilometers left to the finish line.
He wound up in the middle of the main pack at 38th spot in the stage where eight out of the 96 original riders dropped out of the competition as they exceeded the time limit for finishing the stage, among them veterans Sherwin Carrera of West Central Pangasinan and Nilo Estayo, skipper of Northern Luzon/Ilocos Sur.
Also out were Metro Manila’s Michael Ochoa, Navy-San Miguel’s Rodolfo Malangsa, Y101FM’s Albert Basirgo of Cebu, Eastern Pangasinan’s Juancho Carrolina and NLI’s Ryan Dawana and Leal Dolar.
All eight cyclists will no longer be able to race after they exceeded the time limit of 21 minutes and 13 seconds, or 10 percent of the total time of the fastest rider under UCI rules, by 12 minutes by checking in past 3:53.11.
Left crippled was the Ilocos squad with the loss of three of its members with still 11 stages to go in the bikathon.
“It’s unfair that these riders did not work hard while the rest of the riders were giving their all,” noted race director Ric Rodriguez. “Sadly, they won’t be able to go on with the race.”
“Nasunod yong plano naming na dadalhin yung team ni Irish sa pag-ahon tapos tumira na yung mga batang sila Lim at Roque sa patag, habang nakaabang yung isang sprinter namin na si Huelda,” said AMV-LP coach Renato Dolosa of the pre-race gameplan. “Pero malayo pa rin ang hahabulin namin.”
Indeed, his wards hardly rose up the team standings and were still 14:43 behind overall leader V-Mobile (61:53.22) even as dangerous Roadbike Phils., running third entering yesterday’s race, rose to second (61:55.36) while Metro Manila wheeled into third spot (61:57.42).
Navy-Standard Insurance (61:57.47) and One Tarlac (61:58.07) moved up one rung each at fourth and fifth, respectively, but Mindanao, in second after four stages, slipped to sixth (61:58.50) after the stage.
Ravina, who wrested the overall lead with his scintillating win in the 227-km Tagum-to-Butuan stage last Friday, kept the LBC red jersey for the third straight stop with a total tally of 20:54.35 while V-Mobile’s Oscar Rindole (20:55.05) and AMV’s Cris Joven (20:55.23) continued to stalk the Le Tour de Filipinas titlist in the second and third spots.
“So far, so good. Ang instruction sa mga bata ay maintain lang naming ang standing at protektahan si Ravina,” said Roadbike Phils. team manager Gary Advincula. “Basta makalagay kami ng isang tao sa harap katulad ni Obosa, okay na.”
On a narrow and snaking route toward Tacloban, the home of former First Lady and now Leyte Rep. Imelda Marcos, seven riders staged an early breakaway, led by Rey Martin, Nilo Estayo, Salvador Salvador and Reynaldo Navarro.
A native of Tabaco, Albay, Valenzuela uses his famed uphill skills in reaching the top of the KOM portion in Baybay, but after toiling all alone for around 40 kilometers was overtaken by the main group, with Ravina, Roadbike skipper Mark Galedo and Obosa anchoring the rest of the riders.
With 20 kilometers left, Martinez, Lim and Roque made their own breakaway, each taking turns at the front, although fast catching up behind at a breakneck 48-kilometer-per-hour pace was the huge bunch, merging with the frontrunners five kilometers later.
Obosa and Hualda then found daylight in the crowded peloton in their bid to cop the stage that was eventually won by the young AMV-LPGMA rider.
Rodriguez said the riders will be in for another challenging ride in the sixth stage, another undulating 170-km trip from here to the northern seaport city of Calbayog, where most of the province’s copra produce is shipped out.
This stage could prove difficult for the remaining cyclists with two Category 4 KOM portions at the 41.1 and 84.6-km. marks.
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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