SUBIC – Irish Valenzuela came up short in his bid to win lap honors on Monday, but good enough to retain the overall lead seven stages into the 2013 Ronda Pilipinas.
The star rider of the LPGMA-American Vinyl rode with the early breakaway group that dwindled one by one as it approached the Category 3 climb of the 180.5-kilometer race in Bagac, Bataan.
The 25-year-old race leader was still in contention along with three others until the final 400-meter stretch when he finally lost steam, allowing Ronald Oranza of PLDT-Spyder to win the lap that ended in this former American military base.
“Sinubukan ko lang nung una pero nung nakita ko hindi sumunod, inatake ko na,” said Valenzuela, a native of Tabaco, Albay.
“Kaya trinangkuhan ko na nung makakuha ng pagkakataon hanggang sa pag-ahon at pag-lusong, pero naubos lang ako sa huli,” he added.
Oranza, a 20-year-old rider from Villasis, Pangasinan, stuck with Valenzuela like a leech before making his move in the final stretch when he outsprinted Cris Joven also of LPGMA-American Vinyl, and Ronald Gorantes of Roadbike Philippines going home.
All three submitted identical times of four hours, 21 minutes and 57 seconds, but it was Oranza who took home the lap purse of P50,000.
“Masaya ako nanalo na din ako ng lap sa wakas,” said Oranza, whose biggest finish was runner-up to Rudy Roque in the Pagadian-Iligan Stage 3.
Valenzuela ended up at No. 5 (4:22.01), just a second behind fourth placer Santy Barnachea, the erstwhile leader in the race presented by LBC Express and backed by Total, the MVP Sports Foundation, Jinbei Auto, Smart, Icom iDAS, Standard Insurance, Maynilad, and NLEX.
His aggregate time of 25:39.07 assures Valenzuela of the symbolic red jersey entering Stage 8 from Olongapo to Alaminos, Pangasinan and covering a total of 183.4 kms.
Following his lap victory, Oranza moved from third to second with 25:40.46, followed by Joven (25:43.37) and Gorantes (25:43.50).
El Joshua Carino of PLDT-Spyder suffered a busted rare tire in the early goings and skidded to No. 6 overall.
The 36-year-old Barnachea, a two-time Tour winner, also made a leap in the standings as he is now at fifth place with a time of 25:44.22.
The big finish of both Valenzuela and Joven helped LPGMA-American Vinyl to seize the lead in the team event with a time of 77:25.04, ahead of erstwhile leader PLDT-Spyder (77:26.52) and Navy-Standard (77:29.07), respectively.