Millanes sprints to Stage 7 win; Calderon keeps overall leadership
SAN FERNANDO, La Union—With a podium finish in the mountains highly unlikely, Joseph Millanes struck hard where he does it best.
The American Vinyl-LPGMA sprinter cut loose from the lead pack with 50 kilometers of well-paved roads ahead and soloed it home in this seaside town Monday in Stage 7 of the 2011 LBC Ronda Pilipinas.
Fired up by cheering family members on a roadside in his hometown of Moncada, Tarlac, Millanes joined a 14-man breakaway group after passing through a flooded section of the town before speeding ahead to finish the 142.4 km stage in three hours, seven minutes and 4.5 seconds.
“It’s going to be difficult to win a stage as the race wears on, so I really worked hard to get this one,” said Millanes, the 2009 Tour sprint king, in Filipino.
Since Millanes is not considered a threat, the Tour’s individual overall contenders didn’t feel the need to chase the 30-year-old sprint specialist when he stormed away from the pack.
Joel Calderon retained the overall leadership after coming in with the large group that included pursuers George Oconer of PhilCycling Under-23, 7-Eleven’s Irish Valenzuela and Rudy Roque of American Vinyl-LPGMA, one minute and 21 seconds after the lap winner.
None of the general classification contenders lost any significant time.
Calderon, who will keep the red jersey for the sixth straight stage in another flat course today going to Vigan City, posted an overall clocking of 22:29.51.
Oconer remained 14 seconds behind while Valenzuela stood 1:36 off the pace.
“I’m in good condition but only God knows up to when I could hold on to the lead,” said Calderon, the 2009 Tour champion.
Calderon suffered a flat tire in Rosario, La Union, at about the same time Millanes made the daring breakaway but recovered after Nueva Ecija teammates Oscar Rendole and Alfredo Asuncion came to his rescue.
Oconer also had a flat after crossing the long-spanned Agat Bridge linking Pangasinan with this province. Gerard Mendoza, Oconer’s teammate, pulled over and offered his tire to the 19-year-old son of 1992 Barcelona Olympian Norberto.
“My father told me to play it smart. I’ll attack when there’s a chance,” said Oconer.
After six days of intermittent rains and overcast skies, the sun finally showed up. And it appears that today’s 129.63 km stage would be a pleasant ride across the wind-swept towns of Ilocos Sur.
“I just have to wait for the Baguio stages,” said Valenzuela, who won the King of the Mountain on his Tour debut in 2006 and the 2008 LPGMA Manila to Baguio race.
Tots Oledan of 7-Eleven finished second in the stage, 15.4 seconds behind the lap winner, followed by Tarlac’s Daniel Asto and Cebu’s Albert Basirgo, who also posted similar clockings.
These riders belonged to the 14-man pack that included Millanes which broke away from the peloton after negotiating the flooded section in Moncada, 22 km into the race.
Roque kept fourth overall (2:24 behind), even as Arnel Quirimit (5:42), Alvin Benosa (6:14), Baler Ravina (7:21), Cris Joven (7:37) and Lloyd Reynante (7:54) remained in the top 10.
In the team race, American Vinyl continued to hold sway (67:41:06) with 7-Eleven 5:21 adrift, followed by Nueva Ecija (12:51), NCR (21:27), W&C Pangasinan (23:28), Cebu (25:25), Tarlac (25:37), Bicolandia (29:37), Eastern Pangasinan (34:28) and Ilocos Sur (48:43).
PhilCycling Under23’s John Mier is out of the race after breaking his handle bar early in the stage.
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