CLARK, Pampanga – Mark Galedo held on to the red jersey Friday and moved closer of winning a second Ronda Pilipinas bikathon title at the end of the 157-km Stage 12 from Agoo, La Union to the Clark Freefort Zone here.
The 28-year-old Galedo opted to just keep in step with his closest pursuers for most of the race, and was with the peloton that finished fourth or about a little less than four minutes behind lap winner and 7-Eleven teammate Cris Joven.
Galedo clocked three hours and 34:38 for the stage and hike his aggregate time to 40:21:26 that put him just two stages away from becoming the first two-time winner of the annual cycling marathon -- now on its fourth edition -- presented by LBC, the country's biggest cargo and courier company.
From the looks of it, Galedo is aware the title is just within arm’s reach.
“I can feel it now. I hope nothing bad happens in the last two stages,” said Galedo, who was welcomed at the finish line with a kiss courtesy of his wife Grace on Valentine’s Day.
Reimon Lapaza of Cycleline-Butuan Mindanao and Frenchman Peter Pouly of Infinite-Singha, who occupies second and third place, respectively, will need a huge break to supplant Galedo on top.
And both knows their last chance to do it is on Saturday’s penultimate lap – the 149.1 km stretch Clark-Subic stage where riders will negotiate three tricky ascents, a Category 3 and a pair of Category 4 climbs in Morong, Bataan.
“Second is good enough for me but we'll see,” said the 28-year-old Lapaza, a proud son of Butuan City, who is running second behind Galedo with a time of 40:23:43, followed by the 40:24:54 clocking of Pouly.
Joven outsprinted Joel Calderon of Navy-Standard Insurance and Oscar Rindole of Cebu-Kalit Air Force in the mad dash to the finish as he once again showcased his sprinting prowess.
He registered the same time as Calderon and Rindole in 3:30:59, and won his second lap victory in the 14-stage race after reigning supreme in the Muntinlupa-Silang Stage Two a couple of weeks back.
Dutch Global's Jeroen Breewel and Taiwan Team Gusto's Yang Wu Hsing finished at fourth with 3:32:37, while PLDT-Maynilad's Ronald Lomotos ended up at solo sixth in 3:32:39.
“I knew if I sustain my pace, I will have a good chance of winning this stage, which I did," said the 27-year-old Joven in Filipino as he towed the six-man lead pack as early as the San Fabian stretch in Pangasinan or just outside the starting line in Agoo.
The feat catapulted Joven straight into the Top 10 in the overall individual race with time of 40:35:47.
Completing the Top 10 list were Roadbike's Marcelo Felipe (20:46:20), Navy-Standard's George Oconer (40:28:03), PLDT-Maynilad's Ronald Oranza (40:30:30), Navy-Standard's Santy Barnachea (40:30:50), PLDT-Maynilad's Rustom Lim (40:32:28), and Army's Irish Valenzuela (40:35:20).
Meanwhile, 7-Eleven also kept the overall team lead with time of 121:19:20, ahead of PLDT-Maynilad's, 121:21:37 and Navy-Standard's 121:21:42.
7-Eleven further hiked its lead over PLDT by 2.17 minutes after Stage 12.
PLDT-Maynilad’s Ronald Lomotos suffered a punctured tire entering Mabalacat, Pampanga, allowing Joven, Calderon, and Rindole to take the podium finish.