ROXAS CITY - The string of LBC Ronda Pilipinas stage victories by Philippine Navy Standard riders continues.
This after assistant skipper Joel Calderon took his turn atop the podium after dominating the penultimate stage of the Visayas leg of the annual road race in this charming southern city.
Calderon became part of the four-man breakaway group with teammate Rudy Roque and two LBC-MVP riders Ronnilon Quita and Jerry Aquino Jr. in the fifth lap of the one hour from three loops around the 2.68 kilometer route around Pueblo De Panay.
But thanks to the perseverance of the younger Quita, the two were able to bolt the group in the sixth lap and even established a two-minute, 45-second gap from the main peloton which eventually gobbled up Roque and Aquino.
Quita helped the duo keep a safe distance from the chasing back led by red jersey donner Ronald Oranza in the final stretch of this race presented by LBC, LBC Sports Dev't Corp., MVP Sports Foundation, Petron, Mitsubishi Motors, Versa Radio-Tech, Maynilad and NLEX.
"Ayaw ko na silang makadikit kasi ito na ang best chance ko mag podium. Alam ko mahihirapan ako sa rematehan pag hinayaan ko pang dumikit ang malaking grupo," said Quita, the only notable performer so far for LBC-MVP team.
The 21-year old rider, however, faded in the last two kilometers of the race and dropped out in the final 500 meters, allowing Calderon to snatch the victory with a torrid sprint to the finish line.
"Ang lakas nung Quita, nagpursige siya para makalayo kami," said Calderon. "Laspag na siya papunta rito (last 500 meters) kaya binanatan ko na."
Calderon finished the race in one hour, eight minutes and 39 seconds, three seconds faster than Quita and two minutes ahead of the peloton spearheaded by Rustom Lim, Daniel Ven Carino and Ronald Lomotos.
Watch video highlights of race:
As a result, the pride of Guimba, Nueva Ecija became the biggest gainer in the overall individual classifications as he is now 11 points behind Oranza, who finished 11th at four minutes adrift.
With Calderon now in third spot, the rigodon at the overall individual rankings somehow opened a door of opportunity for Calderon and second running Rudy Roque to snatch the Visayas Leg championship.
"Pag naulit yung 11th place finish ni Oranza sa Stage 5, may tulog siya. Kasi pag outside of Magic 10 ka, one point lang madadagdag sa yo," said cycling analyst Atty Froi Dayco.
"Tignan mo yung Calderon, before Stage 4, No. 7 siya and 25 points ang layo kay Oranza. After Stage 4, sumagitsit na siya sa third, 11 points na lang layo niya. He only needs to top the ITT this afternoon, may tsansa siya," he added.
The culminating stage 5 of the LBC Ronda Pilipinas, which is also backed by Wheeltek Motors and FEU-NRMF, will take place on Thursday afternoon, also at Pueblo De Panay.