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1998 Tour ng pilipinas
May 2
Day 18 stage 15 165.10 kms
Agoo La Union-Clark
  

Davadilla virtual Champion
By Chito de la Vega, Philippine Daily Inquirer

Stage Winners: 1. Querimit, A. (RP); 2. Hamad, MM (Mal); 3. Espiritu, V. (RP); 4. Davadilla, W. (RP); 5. Espiritu, V. (RP); 6. Luzon, B. (NE); 7. Querimit, A. (RP); 8. Domingo, E. (RP); 9a. Tang XZ (CH); 9b. Pan GC (CH); 10. Davadilla, W. (RP); 11. Domingo, E. (RP); 12. Luzon, B. (NE); 13. Espiritu, V. (RP); 14. Espiritu, V. (RP); 15. Wong KP (HK). 

TOP 10 OVERALL 

1. Davadilla, W. (RP) 63 hrs., 22 mins., 7secs.
2. Guieb, C. (NL) 6:37 behind
3. Espiritu, V. (RP) 7:41
4. Barnachea, S. (Pan) 8:49
5. Valdez, P. (NE) 10:16
6. Quirimit, A. (RP) 10:45
7. Espiritu, G. (Pan) 23:14
8. Basibas, L. (SL) 26:02
9. Domingo, E. (RP) 30:07
10.Celeste, F. (Pan) 30:22 

Top 10, Stage 15: 1. Wong KP (HK) three hours, 53 minutes and seven seconds; 2. Estayo, N. (Man) same time; 3. Mendoza, M. (SL) same time; 4. Gonowon, M. (SL) same time; 5. Llentada, B. (Man) 7 secs. behind; 6. Pan GC (CH) 29 secs; 7. Rosli, NE (MAL) same time; 8. Valdez, V. (NE) 46 secs. 9. Navarro, R. (PAN) 54 secs.; 10. Arciaga, I. (CL) 1 minute. 

CLARK ECOZONEóDefending champion Wong Kam Po, hardly heard or seen the past 18 days, snapped out of obscurity yesterday with a blinding burst in the last 100 meters to rule the penultimate stage of the Marlboro Centennial Tour. 

Except for Wong's last fling with the spotlight, the 15th stage turned out to be a comfy ride for overall leader Warren Davadilla, a virtual champion with one inconsequential stage left who suddenly found old and new friends willing to help him formalize his claim to fame today. 

''Akala ko noong una ako lang ang magtra-trabaho kanina. Pero tinulungan naman ako ng mga ka-team ko kanina, tapos tinulungan pa kami ng mga Metro Manila team,'' said the 23-year-old Davadilla, who has been making a habit of munching on spaghetti while fielding questions from sportswriters. (I was wrong about my teammates. Today, they helped me a lot.) 

Among the Metro Manila team members who helped the virtual champion were former RP Team members Norberto Oconer, Nilo Estayo and Paterno Curtan. 

In fact, the rest of the top ten riders hardly even glanced at Davadilla even when he passed them by. 

As a result, the pint-size Davadilla even added an additional 13 seconds to his overall lead as he arrived 28th. 

The rest of the top ten, led by Northern Luzon's Carlo Guieb, Philippine team skipper Victor Espiritu and Santy Barnachea of Pangasinan, came in with the 31-man peloton, a minute and 29 seconds behind Wong. 

And for the first time, Davadilla never complained of the weight that goes with wearing the yellow jersey. 

''Masaya na ako, gumagaan na yung katawan ko dahil alam ko ako na yung magcha-champion. Huwag lang po masisiraan. Kundi sa mga teammate ko hindi ako magcha-champion. Nagpapasalamat ako sa kanila,'' said Davadilla. (I just hope I won't get into a mechnical trouble. I thank once again my teammates.) 

Like what his skipper Espiritu did when he won the title in 1996, Davadilla and the rest of the Philippine team have to pool their individual and team prizes and divide them among themselves. 

Wong said things got easier for him in the race was when he was freed of the stigma that goes with being branded as ''defending champion.'' 

Through an interpreter, Wong said he finally regained his health when the race got into Baguio City. By that time he was one hour behind the overall leader. 

He finished third last Friday in the individual time trial. 

Yesterday, Wong gave a sampling of his vast international experience when he outsprinted unsung riders Estayo, Southern Luzon's Manuel Mendoza and Michael Gonowon. All four covered the 165.10 km distance from Agoo, La Union to the Clark Special Economic Zone in three hours, 53 minutes and seven seconds. 

Wong was still 18th overall, one hour, three minutes and 45 seconds behind the yellow jersey. 

But despite a dismal performance this year, Wong promised to return next year. 

Davadilla, Wong said, is ''like a kid because he has a cute face and his body is small. But he performs very well.'' 

Today's final stage will be the criterium at the Luneta, starting at Ma. Orosa St. at noon. 

Pres. Ramos will be attending the awarding ceremonies an hour and a half later.
 

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Click here for complete Stage 15 results