Valenzuela wards off ambitious Oranza
VIGAN, Philippines – LPGMA-American Vinyl’s Irish Valenzuela outclassed PLDT-Spyder’s Ronald Oranza in a battle for the overall lead while PLDT-Spyder won the team war over LPGMA-American Vinyl in Ronda Pilipinas’ 193.9-km Stage Nine that started in Mangaldan, Pangasinan yesterday and ended here, at the heart of tobacco country.
But Valenzuela, 25, showed he’s as good as the best in the sprints, finishing a strong fifth in the lap topped by PLDT-Spyder’s Mark Julius Bonzo to keep the solo overall lead in the individual race, over three minutes up on a younger but less experienced Oranza.
“I knew he’s (Oranza) catching up on me so I told myself before the stage to do something about it, and I’m just glad I did,” said Valenzuela, a proud Tabaco, Albay still out searching for the big one after a second place finish to Mark Galedo of Roadbike Phl last year.
Bonzo, a 23-year-old son of Marlboro Tour winner Romeo and nephew of 1976 Tour of Luzon titlist Modesto, secured his first ever lap triumph in four hours, 24 minutes, 25 seconds, the same time clocked by Navy-Standard’s George Oconer, who wound up second.
Team Tarlac’s Tomas Martinez and PLDT-Spyder’s Rustom Lim, the Olongapo-Alaminos Stage Eight winner, both timed in 4:24.27 but the former edged the latter to clinch third.
Valenzuela checked in fourth in 4:24.42, or exactly two minutes ahead of Oranza, the tall, imposing 20-year-old cyclist from Villasis, Pangasinan, to hang on to the symbolic LBC red jersey in today’s 80.4-km Stage 10 team time trial that will be unfurled in Bantay, Ilocos Sur and end in Laoag, Ilocos Norte.
At the end of the day, Valenzuela remained atop the heap for the fourth straight stage since seizing it from Navy-Standard’s Santy Barnachea in the Lapu Lapu-Busay Stage Five with an aggregate time of 34:22.21 ahead of Oranza, who stayed at No. 2 in 34.25.29 but saw his time deficit stretched from just over a minute to more than three.
Valenzuela also felt it was more of a moral triumph for him as he felt slighted by Oranza saying the day before that he’s the better sprinter.
“It’s hard to speak early, he (Oranza) needs to prove it first,” said Valenzuela, who thanked his LPGMA and American Vinyl bosses Arnel Ty and Eric Sy.
PLDT-Spyder made a significant gain in the overall team races as it leapfrogged from No. 2 to the overall lead in 103:33.42, atop former pacesetter LPGMA-American Vinyl (103:36.45) and Navy-Standard (103:37.09).
The team, practically the same national under-23 squad funded by LBC Express, Inc. president Fernando Araneta that trained and competed locally and internationally in the last six months, was pushed to the top by strong, brave efforts of Bonzo and Lim again.
Bonzo, who took up cycling late at 16 years old but worked on it to make it this far, came through with perhaps the race of his life to take lap honors while Lim, the Stage Eight winner, came in at No. 4 to help propel their PLDT-Spyder team to the top.
“This one’s for my parents, they’re my inspiration,” said Bonzo, who finished second to Lim in Stage Eight.
Some minor changes occured in the overall individual race. Roadbike Phl’s Ronald Gorantes and Navy-Standard’s Santy Barnachea, the inaugural Ronda millionaire champion, moved from Nos. 4 to 5 to Nos 3 to 4 in 34:26.38 and 34:27.41 while LPGMA-American Vinyl’s Cris Joven skidded from No. 3 to No. 5 in 34:28.16.
Rounding up the top 10 were PLDT-Spyder’s El Joshua Carino (34:31.07), VMobile-Smart’s Joel Calderon (34:34.42), Team Tarlac’s Tomas Martinez (34:38.05), Y101 FM-Cebu’s Marvin Tapic (34:38.37) and defending champion Mark Galedo of Roadbike Phl (34:38.47).