ALAMINOS CITY—Rustom Lim made a selfless act and was rewarded generously with a first career stage triumph.
The sprint specialist from Guimba, Nueva Ecija, pulled off a bold breakaway in the final 20 kilometers to seize victory in Stage 8 of the Ronda Pilipinas on a hot and humid day that saw Ronald Oranza cut Irish Valenzuela’s overall lead by 31 precious seconds.
Lim of PLDT/Spyder soloed it home in four hours, 17 minutes and 23 seconds after yesterday’s smooth 183.4-kilometer ride from the Subic Freeport.
Lim’s teammate Mark Julius Bonzo beat Tarlac’s Merculio Ramos to second place by a wheel after a mad dash to the finish line. The two were 24 seconds behind the stage winner.
“I managed to break away from the lead pack but I couldn’t have done it without the help of my teammates,” said the 19-year-old Lim, who came to the aid of teammate El Joshua Cariño who suffered a flat tire barely 40 km into Stage 7 on Monday.
Lim never left his teammate until the end of the stage but the blowout dropped Cariño from second to sixth overall.
PLDT/Spyder, the team bankrolled by LBC Express president Fernando Araneta, again showed perfect teamwork yesterday as Lim, Bonzo, son of 1983 Tour champion Romeo Bonzo, and Jemico Brioso escorted Oranza for the blazing finish even as Elmer Navarro and Denver Casayuran sat in the main pack along with the chief Tour contenders.
Oranza, who started the day 1:39 behind Valenzuela, narrowed the deficit to 1:08 at the halfway mark of the 16-stage bikathon.
After a Stage 7 win that catapulted him to second overall, Oranza arrived this time with a big bunch of riders just 38 seconds off Lim.
Defending champion Mark Galedo, Valenzuela and the rest of the title aspirants completed the high-velocity ride along the coastal towns of Zambales and Pangasinan more than a minute later.
“I didn’t expect to gain time,” said Oranza. “We just saw the opportunity and took it.
“Still, we would rather have the team championship than the individual crown,” added the versatile rider from Villasis, Pangasinan.
Overall, Cris Joven of LPGMA-American Vinyl remained third but gained a few seconds on Valenzuela (now 3:59 behind), and Road Bike’s Ronald Gorantes stayed fourth (4:12).
Santy Barnachea of Philippine Navy remained in fifth spot (5:15), followed by Cariño (8:41), Joel Calderon of Smart/V-Mobile (10:34), YFM Cebu’s Marvin Tapic (14:16), Galedo (14:47) and two-time Tour runner-up Ramos (15:51).
“We should watch out for the breakaways,” said Valenzuela, last year’s runner-up and the Tour’s back-to-back King of the Mountain. “Next time, I will be more aggressive marking my rivals.”
LPGMA-American Vinyl retained the lead in the team race with a 56-second advantage over PLDT/Spyder as the Ronda takes a one-day break in this province, hailed as the cycling capital of the country.
Philippine Navy was third (4:03 behind) followed by Road Bike Philippines (6:14).