ready to unseat beleaguered leader
Philippine Journal Group
SUBIC FREEPORT ZONE - -Warren Davadilla survived a gruelling battle with teammate and archnemesis Arnel Querimit on a day China's Tang Xuezhong and Pan Guangchung survived one of the hottest days of the cruel month of April in another dramatic episode of the '98 Marlboro Centennial Tour yesterday.
Davadilla found his world around him beginning to collapse when Querimit reduced a 56-second deficit to only three seconds after the short 20.1 km. individual time trial, first part of the two-part ninth stage held in this former American naval base and set the stage for what could be the changing of the guard right after the second part of the race.
Querimit was on the verge of overhauling the lead when his group led Davadilla by over 1:29 in the last 10 kilometers of the 80.2 km. criterium also inside Subic.
But Querimit had other things in mind.
With nobody in his group willing to set the pace, Querimit slowed down and Davadilla's group later caught up with them on the climb to the jungles overlooking a stream resort and a championship golf course and the duo finished witht he same clocking to hand Davadilla the yellow jersey for the eighth time in the tour.
"Siguro hindi pa ngayon, baka sa ibang laps na (Probably, this is not yet the time, maybe in the next laps)," said Querimit, probably referring to today's 258.5-kilometer race, the tour's longest, from here to Dagupan City.
The three-second lead is one of the slimmest leads in the history of the tour - but not the slimmest - and Davadilla, finally expressed his frustration over the lack of support he thought was due him as the top rider of the Philippine team.
"Talagang ganyan. Siguro bukas kay Arnel na. Okay lang para hindi ako mahirapan. Wala na talaga - overheat na ako (Probably, Arnel will get it tomorrow. It's okay, so I won't go through this difficulty anymore. I'm suffering from overheat)," said Davadilla.
"Siguro naubos na rin ako. Wala akong katulong (Probably I'm already spent. I don't get support)," he added.
Davadilla's other worry will be Malaysia's Hoong Tsen Seong, who, a Malaysian reporter said, raced according to plan, and sliced the overall lead to only 2:03. Pangasinan's Santy Barnachea, with whom he shared joint third in the previous stages, was now solo fourth, 5:31 behind the leader.
The duo's duel and animosity overshadowed the towering victories of China's Tang and Pan, who made huge strides in their title bids with their first ever 1-2 finish.
Tang, his arms and racing legs tanned and baked by the tropical sun, braved one of the hottest days of the long summer and won the first part of the stage, with a 51.37-second edge over 1996 champion and Philippine team skipper Victor Espiritu.
Pan complemented his team captain's heroics with a personal show of his own enduring skills in the second part, a four-lap, 80.2-km. criterium, making it a Chinese 1-2 finish with Tang.
For the first time two Chinese stood on the victor's podium as they proudly shared top honors and the purse of P25,000 in the stage which started and ended at the administration building of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority beside the Alava Wharf, berth of the US Seventh Fleet and the giant USS Enterprise until the last days of the American presence here seven years ago.
Chinese interpreter and sports manager Wang Jungyang later said the two Chinese may be down but certainly not out of the title race, and are going for it every inch of the way with the help of the Hong Kong team.
"In the first stages they had difficulty because of the frequent punctures, now it's difficult for them to recover. But they are here fighting, and they are going for the title," said Wang.
Pan even had to drop from the lead pack in the third lap to wait for Tang,, who was changing a punctured tire. The two rejoined the lead pack before Pan made the solo breakaway to lead Tang's second group by over one minute.
Tang made a dramatic leap from a deficit of 32:22 at 20th to 23:20 at 13th place, while Pan improved from 21st (35:370 to 20th (27:25).
The jump was the biggest by any rider after nine stages of the P9.2 million tour, but the bigger gains went the way of Querimit who trimmed Davadilla's 53-second lead to just three seconds after the first race.
On top of the P12,500 prize, Pan also won a bonus of $500 from Philcopy
Corp., maker of Mita Copiers ... SBMA chairman Dick Gordon supervised traffic
control during the race. He was late for the awarding ceremonies after
he was caught in heavy traffic...