PETER Pouly has emerged as the newest challenger to the title after an impressive ride in the mountains that enabled him to zoom to third in the standings, but with only two teammates remaining and still five stages to go the Frenchman is keeping his goals modest in Ronda Pilipinas International 2014.
With a solo finish in the Dagupan to Baguio stage, the 36-year-old Pouly trimmed a 12-minute deficit to just under three minutes behind four-day leader Mark Galedo.
The race resumes on Wednesday after a one-day break, with an 88.5-kilometer criterium in Baguio set for Stage 10 followed by a climb from La Union to Baguio in Stage 11 giving the Frenchman several opportunities to challenge for the lead.
But the Infinite Singha team is down to three riders after nine stages, and Pouly has declared he is simply eyeing the King of the Mountain title and will only go for the overall crown if he sees a very good chance to attack.
“I have no more team to rely on now," said Pouly. "So I'm just trying to win the King of the Mountain.
Reigning SEA Games toad race gold medalist Ariya Phounsavath of Laos and Canadian Nicolas Magnan have pulled out of the race, leaving Pouly Morgan Siffointe and Vincent Chin Young to carry the fight for Infinite Singha.
“Maybe if we'll get the opportunity, we'll grab it,” said Pouly of his chances of taking the overall lead.
Nevertheless, the 7-Eleven team intends to keep a close watch on Pouly as it tries to help Galedo win his second Ronda title.
"He's (Pouly) dangerously lurking closely behind Mark (Galedo) and I told him to be a little more careful," said 7-Eleven and Roadbike Philippines manager Bong Sual.
Galedo has an aggregate time of 32 hours, 23 minutes and four seconds, followed by Reimon Lapaza of Cycleline-Butuan Mindanao (32:24:16) and Pouly (32:26:46).
The other top 10 riders are Roadbike's Marcelo Felipe (2:59:32), Navy-Standard's George Oconer (32:28:59) and first Ronda king Santy Barnachea (32:28:59), PLDT-Maynilad's Ronald Oranza (32:30:45), 7-Eleven's Mark Julius Bordeos (32:30:45), PLDT-Maynilad's Rustom Lim (32:32:46) and reigning titlist Army's Irish Valenzuela (32:33:55).
In the team standings, 7-Eleven leads the way at 97:23:50 followed by Navy-Standard (97:25:12) and PLDT-Maynilad (97:56:52) in the 14-stage event presented by LBC, sponsored MVP Sports Foundation, Petron, NLEX, Maynilad, PLDT and Mitsubishi, Versa 2 Way Radio and Standard Insurance and minor sponsor Air Asia Zest and C! Magazine, sanctioned by PhilCycling and backed by Shimano Cannondale bikes, the Department of Tourism and Philippine National Police chief Allan Purisima.