CAUAYAN CITY – After a rousing first-ever win by a Filipino in a Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) race stage in the opening leg of the 2012 Le Tour de Filipinas, the local riders kept it going by making it two-for-two in lap wins after the second stage of the race.
Arnel Quirimit of Go21 made a huge charge in the final 200 meters from the back of the lead group to take Stage Two of the tour with a time of 2 hours, 33 minutes and 46 seconds. Just behind him were four riders with the same time, including two other locals.
18-year-old Rustom Lim of American Vinyl LPGMA and Joel Calderon of Mail and More took second and fourth places in the 109.43-kilometer stage that began in Tuguegarao City and ended here in Cauayan City in the province of Isabela.
Finishing between the two Filipinos was German rider Timo Scholz of CCN Cycling Team, whose performance earned him the yellow jersey and the lead in the individual general standings. Australian Alexander Malone of Plan B Racing finished fifth.
The 36-year-old Quirimit, who won this tour when it was called the Air 21 Tour Pilipinas in 2003, was part of an eight-man lead pack that broke away from the peloton with about 60-km remaining in the stage.
Lim, who won a bronze in last year’s Asian Youth Cycling Championships in Nakhon Ratchsima, Thailand to give the country its first cycling medal in Asian-level competition since 1998, eventually separated himself from the rest of the group to briefly lead the stage.
But the seven other riders caught up with him at the 12-km mark and the group stayed intact until the finishing sprint that ended in front of Isabela State University.
Iranian Hamid Shirisisan of Uzbekistan Suren, Malaysian Sea Keong Loh of OCBC Singapore Continental Team and Japan’s Kenichi Suzuki of Aisan Racing finished three seconds behind the leaders as part of the eight-man lead breakaway.
“Doon lang ako sa likod kasi nagpapahinga ako para sa sprint. Alam ko malalakas rumemate ito eh,” Quirimit said about his strategy in the stage. “Successful naman yung remate ko (in the final 200-m).”
“Of course, masayang masaya ako na nagkaroon na naman ako ng pagkakataon (to win a lap),” said the veteran, who first competed in the tour in 1994 when it was still known as the famed Marlboro Tour.
“Maraming maraming salamat sa buong maykapal na binigyan niya ako ng maraming lakas.”
He also thanked Le Tour de Filipinas sponsor Air21 and his branch of service in the Philippine Army.
Quirimit, who hails from Pozzorubio in Pangasinan, has multiple stage wins in the tour under his belt, although this is his first since the race officially became UCI-sanctioned in 2010 and was renamed the Le Tour de Filipinas. He has also won medals in the Asian Cyclng Championships and the Southeast Asian Games.
Scholz, who took over the yellow jersey from Stage One winner Oscar Rendole, now sits on top of individual classification with a two-stage time of 6:18:18. Trailing him are two international riders: Malone at 6:18:44 and Loh at 6:18:53. Rendole is fourth with a 6:19:24 time.
The 39-year-old German downplayed his performance, though.
“It’s okay that we are in yellow, but I don’t think we can defend the jersey,” he said of his CCN team that is only participating on its second race as a team. “We are a new team, so we can show up everybody. We are here. We are on a UCI tour. This was already a good victory.”
Rendole, who made history when he became the first Filipino to win a stage in a UCI-sanctioned event, lost his grasp of the yellow jersey but his result helped his Mail and More team extend its lead atop the group standings.
Third-placer Calderon finished with the breakaway pack and Rendole and teammate Rey Martin both finished as part of the second group that clocked in one minute and six seconds behind Quirimit.
Mail and More now have a combined time of 19:04:37 and pushed their 13-second lead over fellow local team American Vinyl LPGMA up by one second, and currently lead third placer Go21 by one minute and five seconds.
Rendole and Scholz both agree, though, that Stage Four in Baguio will be the crucial leg in the tour.
“Everyone knows it finishes with a big climb,” said Scholz. “So I think, at the moment, we don’t really have a fixed standing.”
“Bale sa Baguio na lang magkakatalo ‘yan,” said Rendole after his lap win Saturday.
Tomorrow’s third stage will take the competitors on a 104.0-km ride from Isabela to Bayombong City in Nueva Vizcaya and will feature the first of the Le Tour’s King of the Mountain summits.
The Le Tour de Filipinas is presented by Air21 in partnership with SMART and supported by Foton and Jinbei.
Other sponsors include Wet Shop, Maynilad, Nague Malic Magnawa & Associates Customs Brokers, Wow Videoke, UBE Media, IWMI, Airphil Express and dzRH.
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