THIRD STAGE TODAY
Tour leader wary of favored riders
By Chito de la Vega, Philippine Daily Inquirer
FOR the first time in his three-year career Warren Davadilla will be wearing the yellow jersey on Sunday, marking the third stage of the Marlboro Centennial Tour.
He knows, however, that the favored riders are still trying to size up the opposition and ready to pounce at any given opportunity.
''Mukhang mahirap yata ito (This looks difficult),'' said Davadilla, a member of the Philippine team who admitted he, too, was most surprised of his climb to the top of the general classification.
''Hindi ko inaasahan ito. Ang intensiyon ko lang sa team talaga yung kami ang manalo (I was not expecting this. My intention was for the team to win),'' added the 23-year-old diesel auto-mechanic.
For finishing runnerup twice in the first two stages, Davadilla gets to wear what is called in the Tour de France as maillot jaune (yellow jersey)--the dream of every rider.
Fresh from yesterday's rest day, the cyclists begin their Luzon grind with the 167.3 km third stage from the Quirino Grandstand in Luneta to Batangas City spiced up by an ascent of Tagaytay City.
This tough climb overlooking picturesque Taal volcano is expected to be a litmus test.
For the past two days, the big three of defending champion Wong Kam Po of Hong Kong, China's Tang Xuezhong and RP Team skipper Victor Espiritu have always been racing together.
They are also within arms reach of each other in the standings, all trailing Davadilla by at least 20 minutes.
Other big shots also waiting in the wings are Nueva Ecija's Placido Valdez and Murugayan Kumaresan of Malaysia.
Aside from Davadilla, also benefitting from the silence of the heavyweights is Pangasinan's Gonzalo Espiritu.
Espiritu is second overall, 24 seconds behind Davadilla.
Espiritu has been leading Pangasinan's mighty showing in the Tour as the team trails Malaysia by a mere 57 seconds in the team classification.
''Maganda itong nangyayari,'' said the nine-year Tour veteran from San Manuel, Pangasinan, whose career dipped after finishing runnerup in 1992. He was the most outstanding rider during a cycling training camp held in Antipolo last November, installing himself as a dark horse this year.
Also looming at the background is former champion Carlo Guieb, who was eighth overall, seven minutes, seven seconds behind the pace.
This was just where he wanted to be, said Guieb. ''Tamang-tama lang. Pa konti-konti.''
Chinese team manager Zhu Jinling said it was not the heat which bothered his riders but the bad road conditions. After only two stages, the Chinese team have depleted their supply of wheels due to punctures and have been forced to buy local tubes to replenish their stock.
Tonton Susanto, Indonesia's top rider, is the Tour's first victim after he abandoned the second stage. Susanto never recovered from the heat stroke he suffered in the first stage.
The field could still be reduced further after two other riders missed the deadline of second stage. Japan's Ikki Yoneyama said he was feverish, while Artemio Capulong of Nueva Ecija has appealed for consideration with the race commissaire.
2. Malaysia 4 mins., two secs. behind; 3. Pangasinan 4:59; 4. Metro Manila
19:21; 5. Northern Luzon 29:06; 6. Japan 33:21; 7. Nueva Ecija 34:25; 8.
China 39:01; 9. Southern Luzon 42:08; 10. Central Luzon 44:31; 11, Hong
Kong 45:17; 12. Mindanao 1:04:18; 13. Indonesia 1:37:16; 14. Visayas 1:50:40.