hands Philippine team 8th lap win
VIGAN, Ilocos Sur (Via PLDT) -- Enrique Domingo used to be just a face in the Marlboro Centennial Tour crowd, an unheralded rider seeking his place under the sun.
Yesterday, his name loomed large and above the 67-man field with an irrefutable message legitimate contender.
Domingo's lap triumph that catapulted him to 4th in the standings, plus his two teammates arriving at the finish line figuratively with hands clasped together, kept Filipino pride soaring and the charging field at a distance at least for the moment, in a quiet, almost trouble-free Marlboro Centennial tour 11th stage yesterday.
The 29-year-old Domingo, who gave the Philippine team its eighth lap win, reached the end line two seconds ahead of Southern Luzon's Leonardo Basibas at 4:47:32 in a lap victory with revenge written all over it.
Domingo, who won his second stage win counting his Olongapo City triumph four days ago, got back at Basibas who tricked him in the 10th stage Monday. In that lap, Basibas floated in the 11-man lead pack before striking in the final kilometer to finish second and relegate Domingo to fourth.
"Gantihan lang 'yan di ba? Kahapon, pasahero na nga lang siya, rumemate pa sa huli," said the national team's No. 3 man who rode with Basibas and his teammate Michael Gonowon in a three-man lead pack starting at the Balaoan Town in Ilocos Sur, until the final 1,000 meters when he applied the same caper on the Southern Luzon's assistant skipper.
The national team late-bloomer who began his campaign two weeks ago languishing at No.9, continued his phenomenal rise from obscurity, jumping from sixth to fourth and trailing the lead by just three minutes and five seconds, from as much as 11:08 in Dagupan City.
Aside from the flag, he said his family was also his inspiration: "Iniaalay ko ang lap na ito sa aking asawa na si Beth at sa anak kong si Honeybing."
Sharing the limelight with Domingo's lap victory was the identical finishes of his teammates Warren Davadilla and Arnel Querimit who kept their hold of the 1-2 spots in the standings with a defensive-riding tactic in an obvious effort to conserve precious strength going into the Baguio laps beginning today.
Davadilla and Querimit arrived in a heavy 17th-wave of cyclists with identical times of 4:55:25, as the duo decided not to strike hard yesterday and instead checked the third-running Malaysian Tsen Seong Hoong from making a grand move in the 213.2-kilometer toil from Dagupan to this municipality in the north where tales of ghosts are aplenty.
The trio, Davadilla, Querimit (nine seconds behind) and Hoong (2:13), thus kept their top three positions in the overall standings but presumably only until today in a pivotal 194.9-kilometer grind from here to the mountains of Baguio site of countless dreams that were either quashed, or built by riders seeking the tour's ultimate honor.
"Basta't makundisyon ako sa akyat, titira ako," said the pint-sized Davadilla who after holding the yellow jersey of leadership for the 10th straight day, may have developed a little liking to that stature as he now boldly drumbeats of a pumped-up showing the coming days.
The more realistic charged-up showing however will be presented by 1996 tour winner Victor Espiritu of the national team and 1994-1995 champion Carlo Guieb, acknowledged kings of the mountains during the years they won the tour.
Espiritu who topped last year's back-breaking Baguio-to-Baguio stage, moved from 13th to 12th, 18:37 behind the pace from a previous 25 minutes.
Bidding to etch history by becoming the first and only three-time winner, Guieb, skipper of Northern Luzon stepped a rung higher to seventh for a mere seven-minute, 44-second deficit from Davadilla.
Just 12 seconds ahead of Guieb is Nueva Ecija pride Placido Valdez who likewise boosted his stock a notch higher at sixth place behind the fifth-running Gonzalo Espiritu of Team Pangasinan.
But while major changes in the individual classification are expected, firmly-planted on its perch as leader in the team event is the Philippine squad, now ahead by an hour, four minutes and 31 seconds of the Malaysians.
out the Top 10 in the team classification are Pangasinan (3rd); Metro Manila
(4th0; Nueva Ecija (5th); China (6th); Northern Luzon (7th); Southern Luzon
(8th); Central Luzon (9th) and Japan (10th). Wong Kam Po, the defending
champion of the tour which is also sponsored by Adidas, Budget Car and
Van Rentals, Gatorade, Viva Mineral Water, PLDT, San Miguel Beer, Mobiline,
Nexus Technologies, Kubota generators and Mita Copiers, may have finally
kissed his chances goodbye at 26th spot, with only five laps to go and
trailing Davadilla by 52 minutes, a deficit that could be too high to scale.