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1998 Tour ng Pilipinas
April 25
REST DAY (Subic)

Davadilla hard-pressed 
to protect lead today 

By Chito de la Vega, Philippine Daily Inquirer
 
SUBIC Freeport Zone (via PLDT)--If wearing the yellow jersey during the last seven stages of the Marlboro Centennial Tour was a nightmare for Warren Davadilla, the coming days could be sheer hell. 

In fact, Davadilla has conceded he has had enough of owning the yellow jersey he wouldn't mind giving it up to teammate Arnel Quirimit after today's ninth stage, a two-part race inside this sprawling former US naval base. 

He talked with the second-running Quirimit after Friday's uneventful eighth stage: ''Sabi ko kay Arnel akin muna itong araw na ito dahil alam ko malakas ka naman mag-individual. Baka maaari pagkatapos ng rest day siguro kinabukasan sa iyo na.'' (I told Quirimit to allow me to hold on to the yellow jersey for another day. The following day, it could be his). 

Fresh from a day's rest yesterday, Davadilla felt Quirimit could handily erase the 53 seconds separating them anytime within the remaining 1,239.3 kms left in the Tour. 

It could happen today. 

Today's two-stage race starts with a 20.1-km. individual time trial (ITT) in the morning. In the afternoon, the 80.4 km. criterium will send the 69 surviving cyclists four times around the same circuit. 

''Sa ITT magkaka-alaman dahil malakas po sa akin si Arnel,'' said Davadilla. ''Pero kung parehas lang kahit paano nakakapantay.'' (Quirimit is good in the ITT.) 

This doesn't mean, though, that Davadilla has given up on winning a Tour championship. 

''Gusto ko rin makatiyempo kasi binabantayan ako pag yellow jersey ang suot ko. Malaki ang posibilidad mag-champion pa rin kahit hindi naka-yellow jersey huwag lang malaglag sa top five,'' said Davadilla. (I'll be happy landing in the Top 5.) 

Quirimit, however, is not too hot in snatching the overall lead. At least, not for now, he said. 

''Talagang mahirap humawak ng yellow jersey,'' said Quirimit. ''Sabi niya ikaw na ang maghawak kasi pagod na pagod na ako.'' (It's really difficult to wear the yellow jersey). 

Quirimit was speaking from experience. In the past, Quirimit himself has jumped to the overall lead, only to lose it after a day or two. 

But this could be his year. 

''Pangarap ko rin maging isang champion. Kung sakali ngayon,'' said the 23-year-old Quirimit, who is one of the feared mountain-climbers this year. (It is my dream to become champion. I hope it will be this year). 

With eight stages left, including three in Baguio, Davadilla shouldn't worry only of Quirimit. 

There's Pangasinan's Santy Barnachea and Tsen Seong Hoong of Malaysia, who are both five minutes and 17 seconds behind. 

And then there's two-time Tour champion Carlo Guieb, who is only seven minutes and 48 seconds off Davadilla. 

''Mas maganda ang kondisyon ko ngayon saka okay lang ang pwesto,'' said Guieb. (I'm in shape. I like where I am now.) 

Some of the glorious moments of Guieb's checkered career happened in Baguio. 

Also lurking in the shadows are defending champion Wong Kam Po of Hong Kong, 1996 Tour titlist Victor Espiritu and China's Tang Xuezhong. 

Wong said, through an interpreter, that ''My performance the past two days has improved. Physically and mentally, I feel a lot stronger. I realized I have lost a significant amount of time in the early stages but I hope to gain this back in the mountain stages. The RP Team last year exhibited strong early performance and aggressive racing but could not maintain the performance. So we'll see what happens in the next few days.'' 

''Kahit si Victor (Espiritu) aabante pa iyan. Anything can happen in the last half of the Tour,'' said RP Team coach Bart Flores. 

Fifteen cyclists have already quit the Tour, which started with a prologue in Cebu City last April 14. 

Today's riders will be released one by one with one-minute intervals, except for the top ten riders who will have two-minute gaps. 

Virgilio Durain of Mindanao, the surprise winner of the prologue, will have the honor of being flagged off first for being the 69th place rider. 

Davadilla is the Tour's top money-earner with P138,000 after nine days. 

He gets P8,000 for each day he gets to keep the overall lead and the two times he placed second in a stage. 

Quirimit has P88,000 and fellow Philippine team rider Enrique Domingo P77,000. Placido Valdez has P73,750. 

The Nationals have collected P420,550 so far. 

Some P5.8 million in prizes will still be up for grabs in the Tour's eight remaining stages.
 

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