Quirimit tops 2nd stage; Scholz new frontrunner
CAUAYAN CITY, Isabela—Expecting nothing spectacular in the stage, Le Tour de Filipinas presented by Air21 turned to Arnel Quirimit for a dramatic finish in a race deprived of thrill and challenge.
Quirimit, the 2003 champion of the local Tour, summoned his vintage speed and ruled Stage 2 of the four-day bikathon by outsprinting an eight-man lead pack to the payoff line yesterday in front of the Isabela State University here.
Rustom Lim had his first career stage victory in sight when the American Vinyl/LPGMA rookie accelerated in the final straightaway of the flat 109.4-kilometer course from Tuguegarao City in the sweltering heat.
But Quirimit, flashing the form that earned him a niche in local cycling, stormed past Lim in the last 200 meters with a late burst and punched the air in delight.
The Pozzorubio, Pangasinan veteran crossed the line in two hours, 33 minutes and 46 seconds.
“I gave it all in the last few hundred meters and I’m thankful that God gave me another chance to win a lap,” the 36-year-old Army staff sergeant and spearhead of Go21 said in Filipino.
Lim, an 18-year-old prized find from Nueva Ecija, checked in with the same clocking along with German Timo Scholz of CCN Cycling Team, Joel Calderon of Mail & More and Australian Alexander Malone of Plan B Racing Team.
Scholz, a veteran campaigner in Europe and Asia, went on to grab the yellow jersey from Stage 1 winner Oscar Rendole, who fell to fourth overall a day after becoming the first Filipino rider to capture a lap in a Union Cycliste Internationale-sanctioned race.
The 39-year-old Scholz, however, has doubts of holding on to the general classification lead in today’s 104-kilometer ride to Bayombong, Nueva Vizcaya, which features a Category 1 climb after the halfway mark.
“I’m used to riding in hot weather but for a European like me, this is too hot,” said Scholz, who compiled an aggregate clocking of 6:18:18.
“I don’t think I can defend it. I’ll just ride along,” added the former European track champion in 2007 and 2008.
Malone moved up to second in the overall standings, 26 seconds back, with Singaporean Sea Keong Loh 35 seconds behind.
Rendole (1:06), Dutch Koos Jeroen Kers (1:46), Rudy Roque (1:52) and New Zealand’s James Williamson (1:52) also remained in strong contention in the bikathon supported by Smart, Foton and Jinbei.
Uzbekistan’s Azamat Turaev (2:10), Baler Ravina of Go21 (2:11), Indonesian Rastra Patria (2:14), Quirimit (3:25), Lim (3:39), Uzbekistan’s Hamed Shirisisan (3:43) and Calderon, the 2009 Padyak Pinoy champion, (3:45) were also in the hunt.
Rendole, the Mail & More skipper, paid the price for refusing to stay with the main pack when Quirimit and the seven other riders cut loose in Mallig town, about 60 km into the race.
The pack sustained its searing pace before Lim, seeing that his group showed signs of slowing down, bolted in front in the last four kilometers.
Shirisisan of Uzbekistan Suren arrived sixth and shared identical times with Loh and Japanese Kenichi Suzuki of Asian before Taiwanese Chun Kai-feng of Action Cycling and Ronnel Hualda of American Vinyl-LPGMA completed the first 10 finishers of the stage.
Rendole, who arrived 14th in the lap with three-time Tour champion Santy Barnachea and Rey Martin, was also dislodged as Sprint King leader by Quirimit, who topped the sprint events in Quezon and Burgos towns.
If there’s any consolation, Rendole’s Mail & More held on to the lead in the team general classification (19:04:37) followed by American Vinyl/LPGMA (0:14) and Go21 (1:05).