Malolos, Bulacan—After seizing the red jersey in the Visayas, Irish Valenzuela of LPGMA-American Vinyl is confident that he could hold on to the emblem of leadership until the race reaches the biggest climbs ahead.
Last year’s Ronda Pilipinas runnerup will encounter minor challenges as the LPGMA-American Vinyl team captain aims to defend the overall lead at the resumption of the 16-leg bikathon today in Stage 6 going to Tarlac City.
The ride of 128.3 kilometers from the capital of Bulacan province is largely flat marked by a pair intermediate sprints that favors cyclists with the hunger for speed.
“I just have to mark my rivals on the road and pray that no accident happens on the trip,” said Valenzuela in Filipino, who missed winning cycling’s biggest prize in 2012 after losing to Mark Galedo by 33 seconds.
One minute and 36 seconds ahead of El Joshua Carino of PLDT/Spyder in the overall standings, Valenzuela will be marking other Ronda leaders such as Ronald Oranza of PLDT (third, 1:58 behind), Joel Calderon of Smart (3:29), LPGMA teammate Cris Joven (4:40) and Road Bike’s Ronald Gorantes (4:51).
Three-time champion Santy Barnachea, who relinquished the overall lead to Valenzuela after clinging onto it for three straight legs, is seventh (5:07), Cebu’s Marvin Tapic eighth (8:30), Tarlac’s Merculio Ramos ninth (9:35) and Marcelo Felipe of Smart 10th (9:38).
It’s no secret that LPGMA-American Vinyl, the cycling club co-owned by LPGMA representative Arnel Ty and Eric Sy, has been eyeing the individual crown this year after capturing the team championship in 2011 and runner-up honors in the previous Ronda.
“We focused on the team the past two years and had our share of success. We’re now after the individual prize, which we haven’t won before,” said LPGMA-American Vinyl coach Rene Dolosa, a two-time Tour champion.
Valenzuela, Ronda’s reigning King of the Mountain the past two years, also has to watch out for Galedo, who moved up to 13th but is 12:36 back, as well as Philippine Navy’s Lloyd Reynante, last year’s third-placer, at 15th overall, 12:47 off the lead.
The 25-year-old rider from Tabaco, Albay faces a bigger challenge come Stage 7, a 180.5-km trip from Tarlac to Subic featuring two mid-level climbs going to the finish. /inquirer