TARLAC CITY – It was only fitting for a beloved son of this province to take lap honor in Stage 6 of the 2013 Ronda Pilipinas.
Tomas Martinez of Team Tarlac made proud his towns mate Sunday when he emerged victorious at the end of the 128.3 km. race that started at the Malolos City Hall all the way to the Provincial Capitol here.
The 33-year-old veteran rider of Team Tarlac rallied from behind to clinch the win on the day Irish Valenzuela of LPGMA-American Vinyl kept the overall lead in the P7.5 million bikathon event.
Martinez, who is from nearby Brgy. Baras-Baras, patiently waited time in the company of the group, before launching his attack in the race’s final stretch in Zaragoza, Nueva Ecija, eventually catching up and overtaking the two-man lead pack of Navy-Standard's Daniel Asto and VMobile-Smart's Marcelo Felipe in a frantic finish.
By the end, Martinez clocked two hours, 55 minutes and 26 seconds, and shouted in joy as he approached the finish line to the delight of his cheering provincemates headed by Governor Victor Yap and former national team member Enrique `Kit’ Cojuangco, Jr., son of reelectionist congressman Enrique Cojuangco.
“Gusto ko talagang kunin itong stage na ito dahil taga-rito ako, ayoko mapahiya kami sa mga kababayan namin,” said Martinez, a six-year veteran who now has five lap victories in his career.
Felipe, 22, checked in at second with a time of 2:55.26, while Asto, 25 came in third with clocking of 2:55.28
Asto, a Ronda rookie from Moncada, Tarlac, was also a picture of ecstasy after finishing a strong third in front of his proud father Antonio.
“Masaya po kasi ito ang unang pagkakataon na naka-pwesto ako, tapos nakita at nayakap ko pa ang tatay ko na nakakawala ng pagod," he said shortly after the race presented by LBC Express, Inc., the country’s leading courier firm, and backed by Total, the MVP Sports Foundation, Jinbei Auto, Smart, Icom iDAS, Standard Insurance, Maynilad and NLEX.
For his runner up finish, Felipe moved from 10th to no. 9 overall in the standings with a total time of 21:26.10, while Martinez gate-crashed his way back to the Top 10 with clocking of 21:26.29 for 10th spot as the two moved in strong contention at a shot for the P1 million champion’s purse at stake in the event.
But other than the tailend of the leaderboard, there was hardly any movement within the standings as Valenzuela remained on top with 21:17.06, ahead of PLDT-Spyder's El Joshua Carino (21:18.42), and Ronald Oranza (21:19.04), respectively.
Valenzuea, 25, stayed with the massive 58-man peloton that submitted identical clocking of 2:55.54 in to keep the overall lead for the second straight day after dislodging Santy Barnachea in Stage 6 in Lapu Lapu-Busay in Cebu.
And the national team member was quick to say he will have to keep his wits together to keep the symbolic LBC red jersey.
“Ganun pa rin, bantay bantay muna at gumalaw kung may pagkakataon,” said Valenzuela, who is expected to preserve his energy approaching the dreaded steep mountain climb in Baguio City.
PLDT-Spyder likewise hang to the overall team standings with a time of 64:07.45 ahead of second-running VMobile-Smart ( 64:10.33) and LPGMA-American Vinyl (64:10.33) which climbed at no.3.