Pressure builds up on overall leader RavinaBy June Navarro
Philippine Daily Inquirer
LEGAZPI CITY—Baler Ravina is feeling the pressure that comes with holding the red jersey of overall leadership.
The mountain specialist from Asingan, Pangasinan, will try to stay at the helm for the fifth straight lap when Ronda Pilipinas kicks off its Luzon leg today beginning with two stages in Bicol.
Ravina, the top Filipino in the Union Cycliste Internationale Asia ranking at No. 30, has been riding in red since Stage 3 in Butuan City and his streak could be halted anytime when the 15-leg Tour tackles tougher climbs ahead.
The contenders are expected to hold back in today’s Stage 7, a short 115-kilometer trip that will pass through the fringes of Mayon Volcano going to Naga City, but they are expected to attack in the first real mountain test in Atimonan, Quezon, in Stage 8 on Saturday.
“We’ve been working hard to keep the red jersey,” said Ravina, the 30-year-old winner of the recent Le Tour de Filipinas and a three-time king of the mountain who rides for Road Bike Philippines.
Tomorrow’s Stage 8 from Daet, Camarines Norte, to Lucena City is the second longest leg in the race at 209 km.
It will be followed by the grueling Stage 9 on Sunday from Lucena City to Antipolo City (155.1 km) where two climbs in Mabitac and Teresa towns are expected to test the field anew.
“You’ll be in a better position once you do good in these stages,” said Philippine team skipper George Oconer, the reigning sprint king who placed third last year.
Yesterday’s rest day allowed the 86-rider field to recharge. The Ronda entourage motored from Calbayog City to Allen, Samar, where the contingent was ferried to Matnog, Sorsogon.
Overall, Ravina is ahead by 59 seconds over Tarlac’s Joseph Millanes, 1:37 in front of Oscar Rindole of V-Mobile, 1:56 clear of Cris Joven and 2:25 faster than Rey Martin (V-Mobile).
Defending champion Santy Barnachea is 5:27 back at 13th.