Santy, Oranza share lead in rare dead heat
TUGUEGARAO, Cagayan, Philippines – Like the champ and warrior of yore, Navy-Standard’s Santy Barnachea used his vast experience to outsprint and outsmart the best from the tour’s youngest breed – erstwhile solo leader Ronald Oranza – and share the overall lead in a race that ended in a rare dead heat.
Barnachea, 36, stuck with his peloton before helping the chase group catch up on the 12-man lead pack that included the young Oranza of PLDT-Spyder in the final 10-km stretch of the 101.3 km stage 12 that started in Aparri and ended in this bustling city.
He checked in 12 seconds ahead of Oranza, who got into early trouble, occupied the rear end of the last peloton and finished dead last.
The Uminggan, Pangasinan native, one of the oldest but definitely a clever, grizzled veteran on the tour, finished 64th in the lap, 16 seconds behind eventual lap winner, Navy-Standard teammate Jan Paul Morales, but a clear 12 seconds ahead of Oranza, a provincemate from Villasis, Pangasinan.
Barnachea, Ronda's inaugural millionaire champion two years ago who also won the Tour in 2002 and 2006, and Oranza had identical clockings of 42 hours, 32 minutes, 32 seconds.
Initially, he was awarded the right to wear the symbolic LBC red jersey for today's 204.4-km Tuguegarao-Solano Stage 13, the longest lap in this edition that should test the limits and boundaries of the surviving 81 riders.
Oranza ran into trouble and got stranded at the back of the pack. He checked in second to last in 2:14.02 but was officially dead last since LPGMA-American Vinyl's John Ricafort, the last rider, was disqualified for failing to make the time limit.
This is the first time a dead heat at the helm has occurred since Lingayen, Pangasinan's Edmundo de Guzman and Cebu's Rodrigo Abaquita tied atop the heap after the Ilocos Stage Six of the 1962 Tour.
Gerry Lacuesta, then race director, eventually decided to award both the leaders the yellow jersey, then the symbolic leader’s color, for the next stage.
In breaking the tie on this one, however, Ronda race director Ric Rodriguez initially said they used the effort in the last stage as their basis. Thus it's Barnachea's.
But upon checking the race manual, they learned that in case of equality, "the leading rider will be decided in accordance with UCI Regulations 2.6.015," which says it should be "based on number of stage victories." Thus Oranza should wear it since he topped the Tarlac-Subic Stage Seven and finished second in the Pagadian-Iligan Stage Three.
Barnachea's only podium finish was third in the Zamboanga-Ipil opening stage.
The outcome of the deliberations notwithstanding, PLDT-Spyder's American coach, Chris Allison, isn't making an appeal.
"We have bigger fish to fry in the next stages so we respect the commissionaires' decision," said Allison, who also handled this same under-23 team, which was financed by LBC Express, Inc. president Fernando Araneta, when it trained and competed here and abroad the last six months.
The 29-year-old Allison was probably referring to the "fish" called team race, where PLDT-Spyder currently leads everyone in 124:23.43, just 24 seconds atop No. 2 Navy-Standard (124:24.06) and over five minutes ahead of No. 3 Roadbike Ph (124:28.58).
Late in the afternoon, Ronda media director Jocel de Guzman announced they've awarded the red jersey back to Oranza.
"It's Oranza who will wear the LBC red jersey," said de Guzman.
Despite losing the chance to wear the leader's uniform again, Barnachea has succeeded in making things interesting as he showed his vast experience against Oranza, a 20-year-old rider who is only on his second year campaigning in this event awarding the champion a princely sum of P1 million and the team winner another P1M, all tax-free, in the country's biggest, richest race on wheels thanks to LBC Express, Inc.
As expected, Barnachea, the veteran that he is, has downplayed his chances again.
"Honestly, I didn't expect that I will be wearing the red jersey, I thought all the while that it was still Oranza," said Barnachea, who wore the red jersey starting from the Ipil-Pagadian Stage Two before relinquishing it to LPGMA-American Vinyl's Irish Valenzuela in the Lapu Lapu-Busay Stage Five.
"I was actually already in my hotel room when they told me I was the one who will wear it tomorrow (Monday), it was really surprising," he added.
It will not be an exclusive Barnachea-Oranza race though as the 25-year-old Valenzuela, who seized the overall lead from Barnachea in Stage Five before he was supplanted by Oranza in the Vigan-Laoag Stage 10 Team Time Trial a couple of days before, declared he would make his move in today's longest ever Ronda stage.
Valenzuela, a proud son of Tabaco, Albay who is seeking his first Ronda title after he was denied of it by eventual titlist Mark Galedo of Roadbike Ph last year, was just 31 ticks off the pace from 55 the day before with an aggregate time of 42:33.03.
"The race will start tomorrow (so I will make my move, that I promise," said Valenzuela, the 2008 LPGMA Manila-Baguio winner and back-to-back Ronda King of the Mountain.
Rounding up the top 10 were Roadbike Ph's Ronald Gorantes (42:33.41), PLDT-Spyder's El Joshua Carino (42;37.52), LPGMA-American Vinyl's Cris Joven (42:37.57), Roadbike Ph's Mark Galedo (42:45.50), VMobile-Smart’s Joel Calderon (42:46.21), Team Tarlac's Tomas Martinez (42:46.51) and Navy-Standard's Lloyd Lucien Reynante (42:47.06).
Similar to Stage 11, where cyclists skirted the edge of Northern Phl, sprinters dominated the shorter, equally flat Stage 12 with Navy-Standard's Morales returning the favor to Roadbike Ph's Ronnel Hualda, the previous lap winner, and grabbing stage honors in a 13-man mass finish in 2:13.34.
"It's nice gift to myself," said Morales, a Navyman second class and Calumpang, Marikina native who turns 27 today.
For Y101 FM-Cebu's Jaybop Pagnanawon who ended up third, it was making his father and coach, 1986 Marlboro Tour winner Rolando, proud that was more important.
"This one's for my father," said the younger Pagnanawon.