takes first stage
Filipino riders in early show of force
By TITO S. TALAO Manila Bulletin
CEBU CITY - Malaysian Nor Effandy Rosli never had a chance.
against three Filipino riders in the final sprint to the finish, Rosli,
Malaysia's No. 3 cyclist, wilted, allowing the Philippines' Arnel Querimit
to grab overall leadership with yesterday's first stage victory in the
Marlboro Centennial Tour '98.
``Three against one, no way I could have won,'' Rosli said through an interpreter after the 190.3-kilometer race. ``Had we gone one-on-one? Maybe, maybe I could have beaten him.''
Querimit, of Pozzorubio, Pangasinan, Rosli, Pangasinan's Gonzalo Espiritu and national cyclist Warren Davadilla broke ahead of a six-man group on the approach to Lilo-an town, 30 kilometers to the finish.
Drawing strength from each other, the Filipino riders overpowered their Malaysian rival in the last 200 meters with Querimit and Davadilla out- sprinting the 31-year-old foreigner to the line.
``Usapan na namin na kahit sinong mag-lap win sa'min tatlo basta huwag lang foreigner,'' said Querimit, ninth placer last year and winner of the first leg in the three previous editions of the Tour.
Davadilla trails Querimit in the general classification by 0:7 seconds. Rosli is running third, 0:23 seconds behind, Espiritu, fourth (0:25), Metro Manila's Norberto Oconer, fifth (2:02 minutes behind), Malaysia's Hoong Tsen Seong, sixth (5:12), RP's Enrique Domingo, seventh (5:12), Japan's Makoto Iijima, eighth (6:59), 1994-95 champion Carlo Guieb, ninth (7:08), and RP's Carlo Jasul, 10th (7:21).
Wong Kam Po, the defending champion from Hong Kong, struggled at 34th and stands 15:27 minutes behind Querimit in the overall standings.
Victor Espiritu, the Filipino rider Wong dethroned, fared no better, engulfed in the same wave and is 15:27 minutes off the pace.
Virgilio Durain, Wednesday's prologue winner, proved what everybody knew - he was no equal to his Tour de France near-namesake.
After his brief fling with recognition and the yellow jersey, the Mindanao team rookie melted under the heat and returned to oblivion, coming it at 65th and crashing to 62nd place overall.
Another victim of the scorching temperature was Indonesia's top bet Tonton Susanto (11th overall) who collapsed from suspected dehydration in the lobby of the hotel where the Tour entourage was billeted.
Susanto, a SEA Games multi-medalist, was taken to a nearby hospital for treatment and his participation in the second leg today, 133.9 kilometers to Argao town and back, remains unconfirmed.
The RP-team's 1-2 finish and the entry of two more national riders in the Top 10 vaulted the nationals to first place in the team competition, 9:24 minutes ahead of Malaysia and 17:44 up on Metro Manila.
The heat and most of the foreign cyclists' unfamiliarity with the road took its toll.
Chinese Tang Xuezhong, second in the race-against-the-clock prologue, scrambled to finish at 38th, begged off from the post-race interview and, Tour officials said, barely was able to make it to his room from exhaustion.
Wong and the Japanese riders complained on several occasions after stretches of dirt roads confronted them on the way to Bogo City, the halfway mark, resulting in busted tires and lost time.
``Wong complained at least twice and the Japanese, although they have been gently easing into the situation, especially on the roughs, are remedying the situation by sending for appropriate tires,'' a Tour official said.
After the neutral zone where official vehicles led the peloton out of the early morning traffic, Nueva Ecija's Placido Valdez led a three-man breakaway group before they were reeled in by a huge pack on hilly Sogod, 50 kilometers from the start.
The descent to Catmon produced several sprinting efforts with a six-man pack that had Rosli, Querimit, Davadilla, Oconer and Pangasinan's Santy Barnachea finally gaining ground.
The six kept each other company for most of the remainder of the race until Querimit spearheaded a decisive breakaway that gutted Oconer and Barnachea.
Valdez rued the rough roads where he suffered a flat and lost his canteen bottle, leaving him without water when the six-man group engineered the daredevil plunge.
Seven cyclists, three from Indonesia and one from Hong Kong, failed to make the cut-off mark and are in danger of being eliminated, said Professional Cycling Association of the Philippines (PCAP) president Cornelio Padilla Jr.
were not even included in the general classification by the UCI people
so it's most likely they won't be allowed to race tomorrow,'' said Padilla.
|The Manila Bulletin||