TARLAC CITY—Sprint specialist Tomas Martinez treated his provincemates to an explosive finish in topping Stage 6 of the Ronda Pilipinas yesterday even as overall leader Irish Valenzuela of LPGMA-American Vinyl came home close behind him in the company of his main pursuers.
Martinez, the 33-year-old Team Tarlac skipper, sprinted away from his two breakaway partners in the final 200 meters to rule the relatively flat 128.3-kilometer trip from Malolos, Bulacan, in two hours, 55 minutes and 24 seconds.
Marcelo Felipe of Smart/V-Mobile checked in two seconds later and Philippine Navy’s Daniel Asto of Moncada, Tarlac, was another two ticks behind for third in the stage that ended with a short uphill climb in front of the provincial capitol.
“I really prepared for this lap because I wanted to win here at home,” said Martinez, who grew up in Barangay Baras-Baras. He pocketed the P50,000 stage winner’s purse.
Fifth career leg win
It was the fifth career leg victory for Martinez, who moved up to 10th overall, nine minutes and 23 seconds behind Valenzuela.
A large group of 58 riders, including Valenzuela and defending champion Mark Galedo of Road Bike, finished 30 seconds behind Martinez for the stage. The peloton also had Lloyd Reynante of Philippine Navy and El Joshua Cariño and Ronald Oranza of PLDT/Spyder.
Valenzuela, Ronda’s King of the Mountain for two consecutive years, kept his lead of one minute, 36 seconds over Cariño, 1:58 over Oranza, 3:29 over Joel Calderon and 4:40 over LPGMA teammate Cris Joven.
“As expected, nobody made an attack,” said Valenzuela, the LPGMA-American Vinyl team captain who placed second overall last year, a mere 33 seconds off Galedo. “We all finished in the same group.”
Road Bike’s Harvey Sicam, Navy’s George Oconer, LPGMA’s Edmundo Nicolas and Asto sparked an early nine-man breakaway which later grew to 16 riders in San Leonardo, Nueva Ecija.
Martinez then mounted a solo chase and joined the lead pack in Zaragoza town with about 27 km left. He pulled away along with Felipe and Asto in the last 3 km to set up the sprint finish.
Galedo, who had a dismal start in the 16-stage Tour, stayed in 13th place, 12:36 off the pace.
Ronald Gorantes of Road Bike remained sixth overall (4:51 behind Valenzuela) followed by Santy Barnachea who kept seventh spot (5:16 behind) despite finishing 39 seconds off the lap winner. Cebu’s Marvin Tapic held eighth (8:30) while Marcelo barged into the top 10 at ninth, 9:04 back.
PLDT/Spyder team ahead
In the team race, PLDT/Spyder showed the way with a lead of 2:48 over Smart/V-Mobile. LPGMA-American Vinyl was third (3:07 behind) followed by Philippne Navy (5:21), Y101FM /Cebu (10:26), Road Bike Philippines (10:52) and Team Tarlac of vice governor Kit Cojuangco (13:47).
Today’s Stage 7 from Tarlac to Subic is a 180.3 km trip made challenging by two Category 3 climbs in Morong, Bataan, near the finish line.
Stage individual classification: 1. Martinez, Tomas (TTC) 2:55:24, 2. Felipe, Marcelo (VMS) 0:02, 3. Asto, Daniel (PNS) 0:04, 4. Nicolas, Edmundo (AVL) 0:14, 5. Sicam, Harvey (RPR) same time, 6. Oconer, George (PNS) same time, 7. Pagnanawon, Jaybob (YFM) same time, 8. Brioso, Jemico (PDT) same time, 9. Cayubit, Butch Ryan (TMM) same time, 10. Millanes, Joseph (TTC) same time, 11. Tolentino, Jay (YFM) same time, 12. Lapaza, Riemon (TMC) same time, 13. Ferrer, Melchor (HIP) 0:18, 14. Tugawin, Ryan (TEN) 0:22, 15. Paras, Jonathan (TEN) same time, 16. Hualda, Ronnel (RPR) 0:30, 17. Oledan, Tots (TMC) same time, 18. Morales, Jan Paul (PNS) same time, 19. Ramos, Merculio (TTC) same time, 20. Obosa, Ericson (RPR) same time
Overall individual classification: 1. Valenzuela, Irish (AVL) 21:17:06, 2. Carino, El Joshua (PDT) 1:36, 3. Oranza, Ronald (PDT) 1:58, 4. Calderon, Joel (VMS) 3:29, 5. Joven, Cris (AVL) 4:40, 6. Gorantes, Ronald (RPR) 4:51, 7. Barnachea, Santy (PNS) 5:16, 8. Tapic, Marvin (YFM) 8:30, 9. Felipe, Marcelo (VMS) 9:04, 10. Martinez, Tomas (TTC) 9:23, 11. Ramos, Merculio (TTC) 9:36, 12. Millanes, Joseph (TTC) 11:48, 13. Galedo, Mark (RPR) 12:36, 14. Cagas, Dante (PNS) 12:45, 15. Reynante, Lloyd (PNS) 12:47, 16. Sicam, Harvey (RPR) 13:16, 17. Oconer, George (PNS) 14:14, 18. Asto, Daniel (PNS) 15:22, 19. Gorantes, Reinhard (PNS) 15:40, 20. Brioso, Jemico (PDT) 16:20