Villanueva powers V-Mobile to victoryBy June Navarro
Philippine Daily Inquirer
SARANGANI—Orlie Villanueva put on the red jersey before a throng of animated roadside fans and it fitted just fine after the V-Mobile sprinter led his team to victory in the team time trial yesterday that kicked off the 15-leg 2012 LBC Ronda Pilipinas cycling road show.
Villanueva, a veteran of eight multistage bikathons in a 10-year cycling career, towed his Nueva Ecija-based teammates to the finish, clocking 26 minutes and 38 seconds in a furious race against the clock covering a distance of 20.6 kilometers that began and ended at Sarangani’s provincial capitol grounds.
The tricycle driver from San Leonardo, Nueva Ecija, will don Ronda’s symbol of leadership in today’s opening massed start leg of 183.3 km scheduled to flag off in General Santos City and return to the country’s tuna capital.
“This is highly unexpected but I’m happy to finally finish first in a stage,’’ said Villanueva, who beat teammate Oscar Rendole to the line, in Filipino.
But the 31-year-old Tour veteran, a cousin of former cycling star Bernard Luzon, said he’s lucky to hold the overall lead.
“I’ll enjoy this win because after tomorrow, I won’t be able to wear it (red jersey) anymore,’’ added Villanueva.
Teams set out one by one in five-minute intervals in sunny yet windy conditions after parading the 96-rider field in a brief opening ceremony during the three-to-count, warm-up stage.
V-Mobile, skippered by 2011 Ronda runner-up Joel Calderon, was the second team that got off the starting ramp and maintained a speed of 48 kilometers per hour.
Defending champion LPGMA-American Vinyl was the next fastest squad (0:26) with Cris Joven controlling the pace while Philippine Army/RC Cola, headed by Alfie Catalan, finished third (0:36).
Joven will don the blue jersey (sprint), Catalan the white (king of the mountain) while LPGMA-American Vinyl’s Rudy Roque will be in gold (young rider) in today’s race.
Since individual and team clockings in the TTT matter, Villanueva’s bonus time of 10 seconds contributed to his initial overall clocking of 26 minutes and 50 seconds. Rendole earned six seconds (26:54) while Calderon (26:56) reduced his time by 4 seconds.