LAOAG CITY—Attacking winding roads as one cohesive unit, Philippine Navy/Standard Insurance was a picture of solid teamwork yesterday.
The Navymen, starring veteran riders Lloyd Reynante and Santy Barnachea, ruled the team time trial (TTT) in Stage 10 of the Ronda Pilipinas on a day that saw Ronald Oranza of PLDT/Spyder snatch the overall lead from Irish Valenzuela of LPGMA-American Vinyl.
With Reynante, a time-trial specialist during his time with the national team, orchestrating the squad’s every maneuver, the sailors completed the 80.4-kilometer race against the clock from Bantay, Ilocos Sur, in one hour, 43 minutes and 45 seconds, to vault on top of the team standings.
Oranza’s PLDT/Spyder squad crossed the line 1:14 slower than the Navymen but finished second, enough for the 20-year-old from Villasis, Pangasinan, to end Valenzuela’s five-stage hold on the red jersey.
The new overall leader grabbed a 54-second lead over LPGMA-American Vinyl skipper Valenzuela whose team arrived home in eighth place, 5:17 behind the pace.
Road Bike Philippines, featuring defending champion Mark Galedo and Ronald Gorantes, placed third in the three-to-count speed test, 1:33 back.
Overall, three-time Tour champion Barnachea lay 58 seconds off Oranza in third spot with Gorantes keeping fourth, 2:45 behind. They were followed by PLDT’s El Joshua Carino (5:38 behind) and LPGMA’s Cris Joven (6:50).
“We’ll definitely protect the red jersey but I’m not sure how long we can sustain the lead,” said Oranza, who posted his first career stage victory in the Stage 7 ride from Tarlac City to Subic Bay Freeport.
Galedo, who began the stage 16:26 off the pace, climbed two notches to seventh overall (13:37 behind), Joel Calderon of V-Mobile/Smart slipped to eighth (14:12), Tarlac’s Tomas Martinez stayed at ninth (14:37) and Navy’s George Oconer jumped to 10th from 13th, 14:56 back.
“Losing the red jersey in this stage was expected,” said Valenzuela. “As a team, we’re not as strong as the others.
“Let him (Oranza) wear it and feel the pressure. Hopefully, I could get the chance to take it back,” added last year’s Ronda runner-up and reigning two-time King of the Mountain.
One thing going for Valenzuela over the next six stages, including the last three huge mountain legs, is Oranza’s supposed limited knowledge of the terrain.
“I’m not really familiar with the layout of the succeeding stages,” admitted Oranza. “My teammates and I will just stick to our game plan of helping each other out.”
Teams set out one by one in reverse order of the standings on five-minute intervals in the TTT where individual clockings of every rider mattered.
Philippine Navy got off the ramp before LPGMA-American Vinyl and Stage 9 leader PLDT/Spyder and maintained an average speed of 48 kilometers per hour throughout the relatively flat course.
By the first time check halfway into the route in Badoc, Ilocos Norte, the Navymen were at least two minutes faster than the teams that were flagged off ahead of them.
The strongest team on paper, Philippine Navy is now 15 seconds ahead of PLDT/Spyder and 7:12 in front of Road Bike Philippines in the race for the P1-million team champion’s purse.
Today’s Stage 11 is a 171.4-km trip from Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte to Aparri, Cagayan.