Tarlac's native son wins leg; Irish stays on top
TARLAC CITY, Philippines – Tomas Martinez conquered familiar terrain in the broad, flat lands of the Central Plains of Luzon and rode to a dramatic finish into the hearts of cheering provincemates yesterday in the sixth stage kicking off the Luzon sojourn of Ronda Pilipinas 2013.
Martinez of Team Tarlac stayed behind with the second group in the early going, made his move in Zaragoza, Nueva Ecija, then beat VMobile-Smart’s Marcelo Felipe Marcelo and Navy-Standard’s Daniel Asto in a spirited dash to rule the 128.3km stage, from Malolos to Tarlac at the heart of Central Luzon.
The stage win was his fifth since he joined big-time racing four years ago.
"I really waited for my chance and when it came I grabbed it without thinking because I really wanted to win here in my province," said Martinez, who is from Brgy. Baras-Baras, a 30-minute ride away from the city after the victory he fashioned out before a roaring crowd.
Felipe, 22, and Asto, 25, finished second and third in 2:55.26 and 2:55.28, respectively,
While Martinez savored the sweet taste of a lap win, Irish Valenzuela of LPGMA-American Vinyl stuck with his closest pursuers and retained the red jersey he snatched from Navy-Standard’s Santy Barnachea in Friday’s Lapu Lapu to Brgy. Busay Stage Five, the second toughest lap next to the crucial Bayombong-Baguio Stage 14.
Valenzuela wound up with a big 58-man peloton that checked in at 16th with identical clockings of 2:55.44, enough to keep him at the helm with an aggregate time of 21:17.06.
At least for another day.
"That's really my plan, to stay with them," said Valenzuela, who lost to last year’s winner Mark Galedo of Roadbike PH.
"I also wanted to preserve some of my energy and hopefully I could keep my lead approaching the Baguio ascents," added the 25-year-old Tabaco, Albay native, a noted mountain climber who topped the 2008 LPGMA Manila-Baguio race and crowned himself King of the Mountain of Ronda’s first two editions.
Stage Five winner El Joshua Carino and his PLDT-Spyder teammate Ronald Oranza were also with the main group to remain at Nos. 2 and 3 in 2:18.42 and 21:19.04, respectively.
The charts remained unchanged with Joel Calderon (21:20.35) of VMobile-Smart, Cris Joven (21:21.46) of LPGMA-American Vinyl, Ronald Gorantes (21:21.57) of Roadbike Phl, Santy Barnachea (21:22.22) of Navy-Standard and Marvin Tapic (21:25.36) of Y101 FM-Cebu keeping their fourth-eighth places.
Felipe, a native of Llanera, Nueva Ecija, however, improved from No. 10 to No. 9 in 21:26.10 and Martinez clawed his way back to the Top 10 with a 21:26.29 aggregate.
As jubilant as Martinez was Asto, who celebrated his third podium finish in a young Ronda career, embracing his father, Antonio.
"It's a great feeling finishing in the top three and celebrating it with my father," said Asto, whose other podium efforts came in the Vigan-Baguio and Tarlac-San Fernando stages of the inaugural Ronda race two years ago.
Galedo stayed just barely outside the top 10 at No. 13 in 21:29.42, a whopping 12.36 minutes off the pace.