PAGADIAN CITY, Zamboanga del Sur -- Joel Calderon of Smart made his move in the final 300 meters to seize lap honors, but Santy Barnachea grabbed the overall lead at the end of stage 2 of Ronda Pilipinas on Sunday that started in Ipil Zamboanga, Sibugay and ended in this coastal city.
The 33-year-old Calderon, a native of Guimba, Nueva Ecija, trailed LPGMA-American Vinyl stalwart Irish Valenzuela and Ronald Gorantes of Roadbike Philippines early on, before unleashing all his might in the final stretch of the 139.5-kilometer race to win with a time of three hours, 27 minutes and 53 seconds.
“Nung nakita ko na kinakapos na sila nung huling ahunan papuntang finish line, dun na ako umarangkada,” added Calderon, whose last stage win came in the Lingayen to Baguio race during last year’s edition of the Ronda.
The day though belonged to Barnachea, who quietly made his way to the top of the leaderboard with an aggregate time of 6:35.18, or about two minutes ahead of closest pursuer Tomas Martinez of Team Tarlac (6:37.19).
The 36-year-old Barnachea was surprised to learn he will wear the red jersey going into Monday’s third stage from Pagadian to Iligan covering 137.8 kms.
“Ganun ba? Hindi ko alam, wala pa akong abiso,” Barnachea told mediamen minutes before he was officially informed that he was the new overall leader of the P7.5 million cycling event.
“Mas mahirap talagang hawak mo ang red jersey kasi lahat babantayan ka. Gaya nga ng sinabi ko dati, maaga pa para magsaya, nakakadalawang stage pa lang naman tayo at marami pang pwede na mangyari,” he added.
Losing the lap honor was a heartbreaking one for Gorantes, who was looking to end a three-year stretch that saw him fail to win a single stage.
“Muntik na,” said Gorantes, a member of the Philippine Air Force, whose last stage win came during the opening lap (Cagayan de Oro-Malaybalay) of the Ronda in 2010.
A native of Victorias, Negros Occidental but now residing in San Mateo, Rizal, Gorantes and Valenzuela finished second and third, respectively, behind Calderon with times of 3:27.57 and 3:27.59, in the event bankrolled by LBC Express, Inc. and backed by Total, the MVP Sports Foundation, Jinbei Auto, Smart, Icom iDAS, Standard Insurance, Maynilad, NLEX and Sun Star.
Valenzuela, the undisputed King of the Mountain winner in the first two editions of the bikathon, had all the chance to seize the win, but suffered cramps approaching the final 500-meter mark of the race.
“Nagka-cramps ako nung bandang huli kaya hirap na ako umahon,” said the 25-year-old Valenzuela, a native of Tabaco, Albay. “Matagal din kasi ako hindi naka-train kasi nga na-injure `yung balikat ko sa training nung December.”
The effort of Gorantes, a silver medalist in the 2011 Southeast Asian Games in Indonesia, catapulted him from 22nd spot to third place overall with a time of 6:38.18, while Valenzuela and Calderon jumped to fourth and fifth respectively at 6:38.19 and 6:38.27.
Rounding up the top 10 were young gun George Oconer of Navy-Standard (6:38.34), Marcelo Felipe of Smart (6:38.37), Reynaldo Navarro of Hundred Islands Pangasinan (6:38.56), Lloyd Lucien Reynante of Navy-Standard (6:38.57), and Cris Joven of LPGMA-American Vinyl (6:38.59).
Barnachea seizing the red jersey also allowed Navy-Standard Insurance to take the solo lead in the team race with a total time of 19:50.47, leaving Stage One leader and reigning champion Smart at second spot with a time of 19:53.08.
Roadbike Phl, managed by Bong Sual, was at third (19:55.25).