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Valenzuela grabs lead; Cariño rules Stage 5

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NEW leader Irish Valenzuela of American Vinyl’s raises his arms after crossing the Stage 5 finish line . Wilfred Ladanga/Contributor

CEBU CITY—Irish Valenzuela of LPGMA-American Vinyl grabbed the overall lead by finishing second behind El Joshua Cariño of PLDT, who ruled what turned out to be a punishing and decisive Stage 5 of the 2013 Ronda Pilipinas here yesterday.

The 25-year-old climber from Tabaco City in Albay ended Santy Barnachea’s three-day hold of the red jersey of leadership as the top 10 standings took a major overhaul after Cariño of Mangaldan, Pangasinan ruled the 156.8-kilometer trek from Lapu-Lapu City that passed through hilly Barangay Busay here in four hours, 34 minutes and 55 seconds.

Valenzuela, Ronda’s King of the Mountain the past two years, finished  2 minutes 46 seconds behind Cariño, who not only clinched his first career lap win but also advanced to second overall.

Cebu’s Marvin Tapic salvaged third, 4:26 off the lap winner, and also crashed the top 10 list at No. 8.

The LPGMA-American Vinyl skipper now show the way with a lead of 1 minute 36 seconds over the 19-year-old Cariño, who moved up from fifth. Ronald Oranza, who finished fourth in the stage, jumped from fifth to third, 1:58 off Valenzuela.

“I didn’t have any idea what the route looked like,” said Valenzuela, who lost the Ronda individual title last year to Mark Galedo by 33 seconds, in Filipino.  “I just saw an opportunity to attack and never gave up.”

Joel Calderon of Smart vaulted to fourth overall from ninth, 3:29 behind, followed by LPGMA’s Cris Joven (4:40)  Road Bike’s Ronald Gorantes (4:51) and Barnachea (5:07).

Tapic, who mastered the route prior to the Ronda, took eighth overall, 8:30 behind,  Merculio Ramos of Tarlac entered the top 10 at ninth (9:35) and Smart’s Marcelo Felipe landed 10th (9:38).

Barnachea, a three-time Tour champion who held the red jersey since Stage 2 in Ipil, Zamboanga Sibugay completed Ronda’s second most grueling stage 11:34 behind Cariño.

“Just as I’ve said, there will be changes because it’s difficult to hold on to the lead early in the race,” said Barnachea.

Galedo somehow improved from 17th to 13th but now stood 12:36 off the lead after checking in 13:14 behind the lap winner.

“It too early to say if I could defend the red jersey,” said Valenzuela.  “Hopefully, I could keep it until the end.”

The 16-leg Ronda takes another rest today as the entourage leaves the Visayas for the second half of the Tour in Luzon. Sunday’s Stage 6 promises another sprint finish in the mostly flat 128.3-km course from Malolos, Bulacan to Tarlac City.


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