Galedo looms as 2014 Ronda Pilipinas champ
BAGUIO CITY—After hurdling the last back-breaking climb of this year’s race, Mark Galedo now looks forward to keeping the overall leader’s red jersey for good.
The tenacious 7-Eleven Continental Cycling Team skipper fended off his challengers in the Cordilleras to stay on top in the Ronda Pilipinas International 2014 after Thursday’s climactic Stage 11 won by Junrey Navarra of PLDT Maynilad.
With the brutal mountain legs over, Galedo said a third Tour title is within reach with only three easy stages remaining before the race ends in Marikina City on Sunday.
“This could be mine,” the 28-year-old champion of the 2012 Ronda and 2009 Tour of Luzon said in Filipino. “My teammates and I just have to protect the red jersey in the next three days.”
Navarra, last year’s king of the mountain, ruled the 95.8-kilometer climb up the super-steep Green Valley Country Club here from San Fernando, La Union, pulling off spectacular solo finish in two hours, 53 minutes and 47 seconds.
It was only the third stage victory for a Filipino in the foreign-spiced race.
French climber Peter Pouly, the Kennon Road conqueror in Stage 9, finished second, 43 seconds behind Navarra, but he has already conceded the overall title and the P1-million winner’s purse to Galedo, who placed third for the day, 55 seconds off the stage winner.
“There’s no more way you can take it from him. He’s the champion,” said Pouly after the five-time French mountain bike champion shook hands with Galedo at the finish line.
Pouly, however, virtually sealed Ronda’s king of the mountain crown by finishing second in the final climb of the day. He compiled 71 points over Galedo’s 49 with three minor KOM challenges left on Saturday.
“It’s (the KOM) already sealed. This is a boost to my next race in the world cup,” said the 37-year-old, who will join the Roc Laissagais, known as the world cup of mountain bike racing to be held in Southern France this April.
Galedo widened the gap over his closest pursuer, Riemon Lapaza of Cycleline Butuan Mindanao, to 2:16 while Pouly, who shaved 14 seconds off the lead despite a punctured tire halfway through the course, stayed in third, 3:28 back.
Lapaza, a revelation in this year’s bikathon, finished seventh for the day after starting 1:12 behind Galedo in the last mountaintop finish of the 14-stage Ronda.
Galedo easily thwarted several attacks from his biggest rivals.
Lapaza tried to break away at the Marcos Highway viaduct, George Oconer of Philippine Navy uncorked another blistering run on a long descent 8 km to the finish and Pouly tried to shake off Galedo near the end, but the overall leader hung on.
When Pouly went after Navarra in the final 3 km, Galedo finally let the Frenchman go, allowing the latter to gain more points for the KOM contest.
Galedo can make history by becoming the third three-time Tour winner in local cycling and the third Filipino champion in an international multistage race.
However, 7-Eleven team manager Bong Sual refused to say it’s all over, worried of the dangers that can arise anywhere.
“The race is not yet over. We still have to protect the red jersey until Sunday,” said Sual, whose squad regained the lead in the team race, 14 seconds ahead of PLDT Maynilad and 2:22 faster than Philippine Navy.
Overall, Marcelo Felipe of Road Bike Philippines rose a notch to fourth, 5:20 behind, Oconer jumped from seventh to fifth, 6:37 back, and Ronald Oranza of PLDT remained sixth (9:04 behind) but lost more time after trailing 5:31 overnight.
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