IRISH Valenzuela joined an early attack and stayed close until the finish to add to his lead after Thursday’s stage nine of the Ronda Pilipinas.
The 25-year-old LPGMA-American Vinyl rider helped tow a small break, never letting up until the final few hundred meters when PLDT-Spyder's Mark Julius Bonzo zoomed to the front to cross the finish line first at the Unesco Heritage site in Vigan.
Bonzo finished the 193.9-km stage from Mangaldan, Pangasinan in four hours, 24 minutes and 25 seconds, while Valenzuela checked in 17 seconds later in fifth place 4:24.42 (34:22.21 aggregate).
Valenzuela’s closest pursuer Ronald Oranza of PLDT-Spyder was stuck in the peloton and never got a chance to make a move, crossing the finish two minutes behind Valenzuela. Although he still held on to No. 2 overall, he is now three minutes off the pace with a total clocking of 34:25.29.
Friday's stage is an 80.4-km team time trial from Bantay, Ilocos Sur to Laoag City, Ilocos Norte.
George Oconer of Navy-Standard matched Bonzo’s time and took second place for the day followed by Team Tarlac's Tomas Martinez in 4:24.27. Olongapo-Alaminos Stage Eight Stage Eight winner Rustom Lim, the other man in the break, matched Martinez’s time.
"Talagang gusto ko mag-trabaho ngayon kasi maganda pahinga ko," said Valenzuela, who took the overall lead from Navy-Standard's Santy Barnachea in the Lapu Lapu-Busay Stage Five.
"At iniisip ko na din na kailangan nang umatake kasi masyado na syang (Oranza) nakakalapit," he added.
Roadbike Phl's Ronald Gorantes is third overall in 34:26.38, while Barnachea moved fourth in 34:27.41 as LPGMA-American Vinyl's Cris Joven slipped from No. 3 to No. 5 in 34:28.16 in the event bankrolled by LBC Express Inc. and backed by Total, MVP Sports Foundation, Jinbei Auto, Smart, Icom iDAS, Standard Insurance, Maynilad and NLEX.
Rounding out the top 10 were PLDT-Spyder's El Joshua Carino (34:31.07), VMobile-Smart's Joel Calderon (34:34.42), Martinez (34:38.05), Y101 FM-Cebu's Marvin Tapic (34:38.37) and defending champion Mark Galedo of Roadbike Phl (34:38.47).
PLDT-Spyder, composed of the national under-23 team, took the lead in the team classification with a 103:33.42 clocking, over three minutes clear of erstwhile leader LPGMA-American Vinyl (103:36.45) and Navy-Standard (103:37.09).
Grabbing a piece of the limelight was the 23-year-old Bonzo, son of 1983 Marlboro Tour king Romeo and nephew of 1976 Tour of Luzon champ Modesto, who snared his first ever stage victory.
"Para po ito sa nanay (Clarita) ko at sa tatay (Romeo) ko, sila po kasi ang inspirasyon ko," said Bonzo, a proud son of Sual, Pangasinan who is coming off a second place finish in Stage Eight two days ago.