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1998 Tour ng Pilipinas
April 29
Day 15 Stage 12 195 kms
Vigan-Baguio
LUZON TOPS STAGE 12
Quirimit grabs lead; Davadilla is 2nd 

By Chito de la Vega, Philippine Daily Inquirer
 

BAGUIO CITY—Arnel Quirimit finally reclaimed yesterday the overall leader's yellow jersey after a week of craving and next vowed to go all the way to the championship of the Marlboro Centennial Tour. 

Quirimit had wanted a grand return to the top of the standings with a planned victory of Stage 12 from Vigan, Ilocos Sur, to this cool city 5,000 feet above sea level, but Bernard Luzon frustrated him. 

The 22-year-old Luzon, from Mallorca, San Leonardo, Nueva Ecija, joined a breakaway group early in the race then displayed uncanny mountain climbing skills that amazed even himself. 

''Nakondisyon lang ho sa akyat,'' said Luzon after claiming his second stage victory. (I was suddenly in shape for the mountain grind.) 

But Quirimit placed a strong second, dislodging in the process ertswhile overall Warren Davadilla. Davadilla could only finish eighth, 4:27 after Luzon, and nearly four minutes behind Quirimit. 

Davadilla, owner of the yellow jersey for 11 days, dropped to second overall and now trailed Quirimit by 3:39 with four stages to go in this 16-stage Tour. 

In winning Stage 12, Luzon became the third man and only the first non-member of the Philippine Team to be a two-stage winner this year, joining Quirimit, former champion Victor Espiritu and Enrique Domingo in that league. 

Luzon also attributed his new-found power from his experience last year as a member of a Marlboro Tour team that competed in the Tour of Ireland. 

Quirimit and Luzon rode together in Bauang, La Union, en route to Baguio via Naguillan Road. 

At one point of that punishing ascent, Quirimit left behind Luzon just before reaching Burgos, La Union. 

Quirimit pedalled by his lonesome for over a minute before slowing down and watching Luzon slowly overtake him. Quirimit never caught up with Luzon after that. 

Luzon , a bashful son of an OCW, covered the 194.90 km run in five hours, 19 minutes and four seconds, ahead of Quirimit by 45 seconds. Luzon arrived one minute and 19-second ahead of third placer Espiritu. 

''Kasi hindi ako makahinga, na-groggy ako saka masakit yung hita ko. Saka pasahero lang siya kaya iyun ang lakas niya. Para sa akin okay lang. Ganyan naman talaga ang laban. Kung ako ang wala sa overall e di ganoon din ako,'' said Quirimit, referring to Luzon. (I couldn't breathe. My thighs hurt. Besides, he (Luzon) was just a passenger. If I hadn't been figuring in the the overall standings, I would have done the same.) 

''Bumalik yung overall ko. Pero hindi pa naman tapos ang karera,'' said Quirimit from Pozzorubio, Pangasinan, who stands to join a long string of Tour champions from their province, acknowledged as the hotbed of cycling kings. (I'm now the leader but the race isn't over yet.) 

''Back to normal. Ngayon, kahit paano, gagaang ako ng kaunti,'' said an obviously relieved Davadilla, who started wearing the yellow jersey since Stage 2. (I now feel lighter.) 

Quirimit's coach in the Philippine team, Bart Flores, all but crowned his ward as the new Tour champion. 

''Mahihirapan na rin sila dahil malakas si Arnel sa ahon kaya lang kinapos lang ngayon. Pero kapag nakondisyon iyan, bukas kanya na rin iyan,'' said Flores. (Seemingly, it is Quirimit's race.) 

Today's Stage 13 is a killer loop--the Baguio-Baguio run. 

The 67 survivors go down Marcos Highway up Naguillan, down Marcos again and up for the second time via Kennon. 

Almost all have conceded the Tour to Quirimit, except back-to-back champion Carlo Guieb, who is running third overall less than nine minutes behind. 

''Bahala na bukas. Meron pa ako, hindi ako ubos,'' said the 30-year-old Guieb. (I'm not conceding. We'll see tomorrow.) 

Guieb has won the Baguio-Baguio three times, the first was in his rookie year in 1988. 

Espiritu topped this same stage last year, followed by Hong Kong's Wong Kam Po, Quirimit, Guieb and Davadilla
 

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