VIGAN CITY—Offended by a clumsy remark over his capabilities, climb expert Irish Valenzuela of LPGMA-American Vinyl padded his overall lead by showing he can be just as speedy on the flatlands yesterday.
The reigning King of the Mountain led an early breakaway and sustained his aggressive riding to pull away by over three minutes over Ronald Oranza at the end of Stage 9 of the Ronda Pilipinas won by Mark Julius Bonzo of PLDT/Spyder.
The son of cycling great Romeo Bonzo clinched his first career stage victory after beating George Oconer in a one-on-one sprint to the payoff line at the end of the easy 193.9-kilometer leg from Mangaldan, Pangasinan.
The 23-year-old from Sual, Pangasinan, clocked four hours, 24 minutes and 25 seconds to pocket the P50,000 stage winner’s purse in nipping the son of 1992 Barcelona Olympian Norberto Oconer.
Tomas Martinez of Tarlac checked in two seconds behind Bonzo and Oconer while Valenzuela, the KOM winner of the bikathon’s past two editions, arrived 17 seconds behind.
Valenzuela, who lost last year’s title to Mark Galedo by only 33 seconds, later said he was peeved by Oranza’s remark after Stage 8 that the latter was the better sprinter than him.
“It’s hard to make that kind of a remark early without backing it up. Prove it first,” said Valenzuela in Filipino.
From a slim 1:08 lead before the race, Valenzuela increased his advantage to 3:08 over Oranza, who checked in two minutes after the lap winner along with LPGMA’s Cris Joven, V-Mobile/Smart’s Joel Calderon and Galedo of Road Bike Philippines.
“I dedicate this victory to my father,” said Bonzo, of his late dad, who won the 1983 Tour. “He’s my inspiration in this race.”
Bonzo, along with teammate Rustom Lim, stuck like leech to Valenzuela after the LPGMA-American Vinyl skipper instigated an 11-man breakaway just 3 km from the start.
Oranza, closely guarded by Joven, couldn’t find an opening to leave the main pack, unlike in Stage 8 where he used the ploy to shave several seconds off Valenzuela’s lead.