IBA, Zambales – Scott Ambrose took the spotlight from the early leaders by ruling the hot, windy, and mountainous Stage Two of the 2015 Le Tour de Filipinas on Monday.
It was a coast-to-coast stage victory for the New Zealander rider, a type 1 diabetic like the rest of his Novo Nordisk teammates, who all ride to motivate fellow diabetics in living a full life.
“We like to inspire other diabetics to show them what’s possible that you can live a normal life even with diabetes,” said Ambrose, skipper of the world’s first International Cycling Union Continental all-diabetic team.
Ambrose spearheaded an 11-man lead pack, which built a sizeable gap that proved enough to survive a late scare from the peloton, before the Kiwi pulled away in the last three kilometers of the 154.7-km stage that started in Bataan and ended in front of the Zambales Provincial Capitol.
It was a late birthday present for Ambrose, who turned 20 on January 23, as he clocked three hours, 49 minutes, and 52 seconds to make a 22-place leap from 27th in the opening leg to fifth overall.
“I think I’m climbing pretty well,” Ambrose said. “Hopefully I can gain some more time in the stages coming up and see if I can take the yellow (jersey).”
Stage One winner Eric Sheppard finished one minute and 36 seconds behind the Kiwi, good for only 35th in the stage, but the Australian retained the overall lead in the competition presented by Air21 and co-presented by Smart and MVP Sports Foundation.
[See Eric Sheppard outsprints Mark Galedo to take Stage One honors in 2015 Le Tour de Filipinas]
Sheppard crossed the finish line along with the main group that included top Filipino bet Mark Galedo, and France’s Thomas Lebas, who both maintained their 2-3 spots in the general classification heading into Stage Three of the sixth edition of the four-stage international race on Tuesday to Lingayen, Pangasinan.
The Philippine team’s Ronald Oranza emerged as the No. 1 local rider in the stage, finishing in second place just 13 seconds after Ambrose, the same time as the third placer in Yin Hong Ronald Yeung of Attaque Team Gusto.
Baler Ravina and Felipe Marcelo, both riding for 7-Eleven Road Bike, finished sixth and eighth respectively.
Ravina, the 2012 champion, also positioned himself on top of the King of the Mountain classification, finishing ahead in the day's two ascents, the first a Category 3 climb near Bataan National Park and the second a relatively easier Category 4 near Morong gate.
The remaining 66 cyclists from the original field of 75 ride an all flat Stage Three on Tuesday before the pack tackles the dreaded ascent to Baguio in Stage Four, a climb beyond categorization by international standards.
The Pinoys’ emergence allowed them to enter the Top 10 overall, with Oranza also making a significant jump from 25th to sixth, and Felipe to 10th.
Oleg Zemakiov (fourth), Yeung (seventh), Damien Monier of Bridgestone Anchor (eighth), and Terengganu’s Choon Huat Goh (ninth) completed the Top 10 riders.
Ambrose's group was already ahead by seven minutes and 47 seconds from the main bunch as they neared the 100-kilometer mark heading into San Felipe town.
The gap was slowly trimmed to just 1:40 in the last five kilometers in Botolan town where what looked like sandstorms caused some problems.
Then the stage was set for Ambrose’s speed showcase.
“The first fifty (kilometers) was when we knew we had to go full gas,” the 5-foot-8 Ambrose recounted. “And then when we saw we had eight minutes (gap), we kind of relaxed a little bit, and then we saw the bunch coming back super fast, so we rode harder near the end.”