SOLANO, Nueva Vizcaya—Ronald Oranza forged an unlikely alliance with his main rivals yesterday and clung to his three-second overall lead going into the crucial mountain stages of the Ronda Pilipinas.
The versatile rider from PLDT/Spyder withstood fierce attacks from Irish Valenzuela of LPGMA-American Vinyl by joining forces with Santy Barnachea and the other contenders to stay on top after the long Stage 13 won by George Oconer of Philippine Navy.
Oconer edged Team Mindanao’s Junrey Navarra in a frenetic finish, crossing the line in four hours, 46 minutes and 45 seconds for his second career stage victory at the end of the energy-sapping 204.4-kilometer trip from Tuguegarao City.
Ferdinand Pablo of Team Hundred Islands nosed out Tarlac’s Joseph Millanes and PLDT’s Jemico Brioso to place third, 47 seconds behind the lap winner.
The top six places in the overall race that rewards the champion P1 million stayed intact as Oranza joined forces with Navy skipper Barnachea, Ronald Gorantes of Road Bike, Joel Calderon of V-Mobile/Smart and Ronnel Hualda to prevent Valenzuela from gaining ground.
Rallying in the third group after trailing behind by 2:15 entering the first of three low-grade climbs in Diadi town, Oranza and Barnachea worked closely together as their seven-man pack caught up with Valenzuela and the peloton along a long and tricky descent, 18 km to the finish line.
Valenzuela, who held the overall lead until Oranza wrested it after Stage 10, mounted a breakaway early but said he was disappointed that most of the riders in his group didn’t help him. The group was eventually caught by the chasing Oranza.
“Sad. I was determined to cut Oranza’s lead in this stage but my group refused to cooperate,” said Valenzuela in Filipino.
Overall, Oranza maintained his three-second edge over Barnachea and a lead of 33 seconds over Valenzuela, the mountain specialist who was last year’s runner-up.
Gorantes stayed fourth (1:11 behind), PLDT’s El Joshua Cariño kept fifth (5:22) and LPGMA’s Cris Joven was sixth (5:27).
Oconer, who broke away from the second group, moved up four notches to seventh, 13:30 back; Calderon remained eighth (13:51) while defending champion Mark Galedo dropped two places to ninth (14:31). Tarlac’s Merculio Ramos dislodged Lloyd Reynante at 10th, 16:23 back.
“Santy and I agreed to help each other along with the other riders in our pack,” said Oranza, whose peloton chased the second group that included Valenzuela and Galedo for about 70 km.
Wednesday’s Stage 14 is a backbreaking 132.7 km grind to Baguio City from Bayombong, Nueva Vizcaya.
The 81 surviving riders will negotiate a series of torturous climbs in the Sierra Madre and Cordilleras, punctuated by a steep drive near the end of a course considered as the hardest in local cycling.
Stage individual classification: 1.Oconer, George (PNS) 4:46:45, 2. Navarra, Junrey (TMC) same time, 3. Pablo, Ferdinand (HIP) 0:47, 4. Millanes, Joseph (TTC) same time, 5. Brioso, Jemico (PDT) same time, 6. Lim, Rustom (PDT) same time, 7. Hualda, Ronnel (RPR) same time, 8. Martin, Rey (VMS) 0:49, 9. Sicam, Harvey (RPR) 0:50, 10. Aquino, Gerry Jr. (RPR) 0:59, 11. Ramos, Merculio (TTC) same time, 12. Villanueva, Orly (VMS) same time, 13. Joven, Cris (AVL) same time, 14. Aleonar, March (TMC) same time, 15. Gorantes, Reinhard (PNS) same time, 16. Oranza, Ronald (PDT) same time, 17. Atilano, Emelito (YFM) same time, 18. Ramos, Francisco (TTC) ST.
2013 RONDA PILIPINAS
Overall individual classification after Stage 13: 1. Oranza, Ronald (PDT) 47:20:14, 2. Barnachea, Santy (PNS) 0:03, 3. Valenzuela, Irish (AVL) 0:33, 4. Gorantes, Ronald (RPR) 1:11, 5. Carino, El Joshua (PDT) 5:22, 6. Joven, Cris (AVL) 5:27, 7. Oconer, George (PNS) 13:30, 8. Calderon, Joel (VMS) 13:51, 9. Galedo, Mark (RPR) 14:31, 10. Ramos, Merculio (TTC) 16:23, 11. Gorantes, Reinhard (PNS) 16:39, 12. Millanes, Joseph (TTC) 16:46, 13. Cagas, Dante (PNS) 17:49, 14. Sicam, Harvey (RPR) 18:16, 15. Martinez, Tomas (TTC) 19:57, 16. Reynante, Lloyd (PNS) 20:12, 17. Atilano, Emelito (YFM) 20:32, 18. Navarra, Junrey (TMC) 23:02. 19. Brioso, Jemico (PDT) 25:13, 20. Ravina, Jonipher (RPR) 25:15