ALAMINOS CITY—Under threat from a pack of gutsy young riders, climb specialist Irish Valenzuela will need more than skill and stamina to keep the overall lead before the Ronda Pilipinas reaches the end of the road in the mountains.
The LPGMA-American Vinyl skipper has to get more help from his teammates to keep pace with sprinters expected to again dominate a series of high-speed races over flat routes in Northern Luzon beginning with today’s Stage 9 from Mangaldan, Pangasinan, to Vigan City.
The 193.9-kilometer trip to Vigan along the coastal towns of La Union and Ilocos Sur is the second longest stage in the 16-lap bikathon which took another rest yesterday in this seaside city known for the Hundred Islands.
It presents another opportunity for Ronald Oranza to cut down Valenzuela’s shaky overall lead of 1 minute 8 seconds after his PLDT/Spyder teammates cunningly towed the 20-year-old cyclist to the finish well ahead of his main rivals in Stage 8 here on Tuesday.
Valenzuela, who will don the red jersey for the fourth straight stage, arrived 31 seconds after Oranza along with other Tour contenders in the leg won by PLDT/Spyder’s Rustom Lim.
Bankrolled by LBC Express president Fernando Araneta, PLDT/Spyder is expected to again work out another ploy that will allow Oranza to shave more seconds off the lead.
“I think I’m a better sprinter than him (Valenzuela),” said Oranza, who ruled Stage 7 in Subic Bay Freeport, in Filipino. “But we’re not really after the individual title. We want victory for the team.”
Overall, LPGMA’s Cris Joven remained third overall 3:59 behind Valenzuela followed by Road Bike’s Ronald Gorantes (4:12), Santy Barnachea of Philippine Navy (5:15), PLDT/Spyder’s El Joshua Carino(8:41), Joel Calderon of Smart/V-Mobile (10:34), Cebu’s Marvin Tapic eighth (14:16) and defending champion Mark Galedo ninth (14:47).