Shortest lap proved to be most crucial
By Jesus A. Garcia Jr.
IT HAPPENED before in the Tour de France and it was not unlikely that it would happen here too in the Philippines that the shortest lap in a multi-stage bicycle racing could be the decisive and the most crucial, producing a major shakeup in the top ten overall standing, especially the championship.
It happened during the Tour of Luzon and Marlboro Tours era and happened anew in this year’s Ronda Pilipinas bikathon that just concluded last Friday. Our two Pangasinan hopefuls Ronald Oranza of Villasis and Santy Barnachea of Umingan succumbed to the mountain climbing prowess of Tabaco, Albay-born Irish Valenzuela to seize and pocket the princely top prize of P1 million. The short but crucial and punishing 34-kilometer mountain climb race-against-the-clock 15th stage last Thursday proved to be a disaster for our two local bets that eventually left the championship out of their reach. Worse, our two provincemates riding first and second in the overall classification after the 14th stage suddenly slid to third and fourth, respectively. And worse, the debacle made Oranza lose some P700,000 and Barnachea, P300,000. Oranza’s team (PLDT/Spyder), which was likewise leading the team competition after the 14th stage also plunged to third place and lost P700,000. All in all, Oranza and his team lost some P1.4 million for just a 34-kilometer race. It’s really mind-boggling. I was there during the 15th stage and saw how it all happened. It was a lackluster performance from the two (Oranza and Barnachea), placing sixth and ninth, respectively, for the day. Well, yes I saw, too, how they did their best that day but their best were not good enough to remain in the top two positions.
‘Better luck next time’ as the saying goes, especially for the 20 year-old Oranza. He’s young, tall (5’9”), slim and powerful and a champion in the making in this two-wheeled event. Likewise to the 19 year-old Joshua Carino of Mangaldan who landed fifth overall and like Oranza, just a sophomore in this kind of cycling multitude. The two merely finished the race last year but tremendously improved this season. They are our new potential champions together with Tour veterans Baler Ravina, 31, and Harvey Sicam, 27, to replace our aging cyclists and former champions Arnel Quirimit, 38, and Barnachea, 36. Let’s wait and see.
What happened in this year’s Ronda was almost the same as what happened in the 1991 Marlboro Tour. I was there, too, during the 17th and final stage where I saw how the overall leader Carlo Guieb from Bagabag, Nueva Vizcaya was badly beaten by our provincemate Bernardo Llentada of San Nicolas in the 34-kilometer race-against-the-clock event held at Roxas Boulevard and lost the crown. Guieb, a renowned mountain climbing specialist and leading by 1:30.48 minutes after the 16thestage, showed his feebleness in flat trek time-trialing and succumbed to Llentada to lose the crown by 42.12 seconds. But after two more years of struggling, Guieb finally grabbed the coveted 1993 and 1994 Marlboro Tour tiaras and became the fourth man in the history of Philippine professional multi-road racing to win back-to-back. The first was Jose Sumalde in1964-1965, Cornelio Padilla, Jr. in 1966-1967 and Jacinto Sicam in 1981 and 1982.
Year 1989 in the Tour de France was the closest race in the history of this world’s most prestigious bicycle road race happened. Frenchman Laurent Fignon, leading by 50 seconds after the 20th stage over American Greg Lemond, lost the championship to Lemond in the 21st and last stage in the 24-kilomter race-against-the-clock event by just eight seconds. This is clear proof that in cycling, a short distant race could still be decisive and most crucial, especially if it’s done in a race-against-the-clock in mountains or even in a flat course. But despite our setback, mabuhay pa rin ang mga Pangasinan cyclists natin. To land third, fourth and fifth, respectively, are not bad at all. We lost the crown but not the respect. Amen.
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QUOTE OF THE WEEK: He who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things. And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, EPHESIANS 4: 10-11