With Filipino riders' chances dim, former champ Ravina and Co. now focus on helping Aussie teammate snatch crown
Former champion Baler Ravina's deficit will be very tough to overhaul in a short, flat race but he still can help a 7-Eleven rider claim the title. Jerome Ascano

LEGAZPI CITY — Chances of a Filipino rider winning this year’s Le Tour de Filipinas got slimmer as home bets failed to close in on the leaders in Stage Three on Saturday.

Former champion Baler Ravina of 7-Eleven Sava BRP was the best-placed Filipino rider in the 185.79 race from Daet to this city, finishing third, but still stood outside the top 10 overall.

Rustom Lim was sixth for the day behind stage winner Australia’s Wesley Sulzberger of Kinan Cycling Team Japan.

That moved the Filipino rider one spot up to ninth, and will have to overhaul a two-minute and four-second gap from yellow jersey Oleg Zemlyakov of Vino 4-Ever Sko Kazakhstan.

Marcelo Felipe of 7-Eleven remained the top Pinoy in the general classification but slipped from sixth to seventh and with a gap of 1:25.

The 22-year-old Zemlyakov, last year’s Best Young Rider, has a total time of 13:43:22 after three stages and will protect a 19-second lead over teammate Yevgeniy Gidich going into the final stage, a 160.20 kilometer out-and-back route in Legazpi, around the Mayon Volcano.

From the looks of it, local members of the 7-Eleven squad will no longer pursue the crown and will instead help Australian teammate Jesse James Ewart, who is only behind by 22 seconds, win the crown.

“Suportahan na lang ’yung malapit sa overall,” said Ravina. “Tinry ko na mag-lap para sa team pero ayos naman din ’yung nangyari.”

For the Vino 4-Ever SKO team, however, the plan is to keep the individual lead just like what they did in Stage Three that saw Zemlyakov finish with the peloton.

“Control only the race, control the time, control the rider. We will protect the yellow jersey,” said Vino team manager Sergey Danniker.

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