PLDT's Oranza survives bold Barnachea attack
Roadbike Philippines' Ronnel Hualda celebrates after winning the sprint finish to the Pagudpud to Aparri race. Wilfred Ladanga

APARRI, Cagayan Province -- Ronald Oranza kept the top spot in the individual race of the 2013 Ronda Pilipinas Saturday. Can his PLDT-Spyder team be far behind?

Oranza survived the fiery challenge of erstwhile leader Santy Barnachea to cling on the overall individual standings on a day PLDT-Spyder regained the No.1 spot in the team event 11 stages into the P7.5 million bikathon race.

Barnachea, star rider of Navy-Standard, tried but failed to wrest the solo lead from the 20-year-old Oranza after towing the group that broke away early in the race that started in Pagudpud.

Unfortunately, the former Tour champion's push fizzled out in the final 400-meter stretch of the 171.4-kilometer stage won by Ronnel Hualda of Roadbike Philippines.

Oranza came in with the peloton less than a minute after the group of Hualda, Jan Paul Morales of Navy-Standard, and Cris Joven of LPGMA-American Vinyl reached the finish line, to check in with an aggregate time of 40 hours, 18 minutes and 31 seconds.

Barnachea finished fifth in the lap and is now dangerously just 11 seconds behind (40:18.42) of the race leader.

But more importantly, PLDT-Spyder dislodged Navy-Standard in the team race with an aggregate time of 117:42.48, about a minute ahead of its closest pursuer (117:43.24).

“We were ready to give up the red jersey for now because we were more concerned with the team race and preserving our energy going into the crucial stages,” said Chris Allison, the American coach of PLDT-Spyder.

Roadbike Philippines is in third in the team race with a time of 117:48.16.

Irish Valenzuela of LPGMA-American Vinyl, whom Oranza dislodged during the Vigan-Laoag Stage 10, slid down to No. 3 or 54 seconds off the pace with a time of 40:19.25.

But with the national team mainstay within striking distance of the leaders, Barnachea appeared ready to concede the title and the P1 million champion’s purse to Valenzuela.

“Sya na ang mag-cha-champion, magaling kasi sya sa ahunan,” admitted Barnachea, aware of Valenzuela’s dreaded climbing skills after emerging as back-to-back Ronda King of the Mountain and with the race still to tackle the decisive Baguio-to-Baguio stage.

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