Tour: Davadilla, Espiritu shine as riders ride into past
The Philippine Star
BATANGAS CITY (Via PLDT) -- Will the real Warren Davadilla please stand up? Even if he does stand up, he won't stand out.
Not because of his height (5-2) but because of his present stature as fifth man on the Philippine team, Davadilla virtually remained unnoticed as he went about his business of retaining the yellow jersey yesterday.
In fact, he kept his place in the middle of the big main bunch while his team skipper Victor Espiritu slugged it out in front with Placido Valdez of Nueva Ecija to rule the third stage of the '98 Marlboro Centennial Tour.
On a day some of the big guns made some breakthroughs, three more Indonesians pulled out of the race for good, a Chinese ended up in an ambulance, two more riders from Hong Kong waved the white flag, and a huge group figured in a pileup early in the race .
While these were happening, Davadilla silently worked on to keep his lead with the same 24-second margin over the same unlikely second placer -- Gonzalo Espiritu of Pangasinan.
The real points of interest remained fixed on the title contenders, led by Espiritu and defending champion Wong Kam Po of Hong Kong, who all tried -- some in pain, others in vain -- to climb close enough to the top.
Espiritu, who lay at 39th, over 20 minutes off the pace before the race, teamed up with Valdez in the last 130 kilometers of the 167.3 km. race from the Luneta, then outpedalled Valdez, Asia's top cross-country campaigner, in the final stretch to win the stage in front of over 10,000 adoring fans.
The effort turned out to be minimal as he edged the huge second group by a mere 40 seconds after some of the big guns in the pursuing batch set a hectic pace to trim the duo's two-minute lead.
Still, Espiritu pared his overall deficit to 19 minutes as he jumped to 21st overall, while Valdez, who was 21st before the race, was now 12th, only 12 minutes behind.
The rest, at best, only succeeded in breaking their rivals' attempts. The overall standings, for the most part, stood still after the day's battle, fittingly designed as a race against time and a race into time.
The stage, the first stop of the Luzon phase of the 16-stage tour, was a race into streets of some of the oldest towns -- Kawit, Bacoor, Rosario and Tagaytay -- which have given the nation its greatest moments in its quest for independence.
The Philippine team's Enrique Domingo towed the field in Imus, near Alapan, where the Philippine flag was first displayed in battle on May 28, 1898 and was later officially hoisted on June 18 in Kawit, then known as Cavite del Viejo.
Hardly had the race started when the race column already broke up into two main groups after a big group crashed to the ground in one of the narrow toll gates on Coastal Road.
Two of the minor casualties in the incident, which resulted in a big pileup when the pacesetter bumped into a vehicle infront, were Indonesians Suyitno and Mohamad Kaprawi who decided to pull out after they were caught in heavy traffic going to Bacoor, Cavite.
The cyclists left behind in the traffic mess found themselves trailing the main group by over two minutes and none ever made an attempt to tow the field to join the main group led by Davadilla.
Two Hong Kong riders -- Li sai Hong and Kan Koon Hang -- and Japan's Yusuda Kenichi were with the group and eventually finished outside the time limit of four hours, 55 minutes, 24 seconds.
Another Indonesian -- Andi Sistiawan -- pulled out of the race, complaining of severe stomach pains in Rosario, Cavite site of the Tejeros Convention on March 22, 1897 where the Republic of the Philippines was proclaimed and Aguinaldo was elected president.
With the withdrawal of top man Tonton Susanto in the second stage, the Indonesian team was practically out of the team competition where a minimum of three players is required. China's chances in the team competition also dimmed with the pull out of Wang Haili, who had a bum stomach he suffered since the second stage in Cebu.
The disqualification of seven riders in the day further reduced the field to 75 from the original 84 going into today's second longest stage, a 222.6 km. race from here to Calamba, Laguna.
After the multiple spill on Coastal Road, there seemed to be no end to the riders' misfortunes.
The cyclists took a wrong route after Coastal Road, and after the riders were brought back on the road to Bacoor, Domingo cashed in on the small confusion to win the first part of the Centennial Race, a race within a race, ending at the Aguinaldo Shrine in Kawit.
A huge Philippine flag hung proudly on the veranda where the 29-year-old Emilio Aguinaldo proclaimed an end to over 400 years of Spanish tyranny 100 years ago and the national shrine's fences were festooned with Centennial banner as Cavite greeted Domingo and the 79 cyclists who pounded their way to the site of the Tejeros Convention, only two kilometers from Rosario, Cavite.
With Davadilla struggling in the middle of the pack, Espiritu and Valdez, made a mad dash after passing the Aguinaldo Shrine, and that effort paid off as they zoomed through the narrow streets of Cavite's towns with escorts in front while those in the second group had to pedal through traffic that practically stood still with motorcycle escorts helplessly trying to untangle it.
Instinctively, the duo did what was the best thing to do -- help each other by taking turns in setting the pace.
Valdez won the second sprint ending at Dasmarinas, Cavite, at the 108 km. mark in Tuy, Batangas and the 132.9 km, intermediate finish in Calaca, Quezon.
edged out Valdez in the last mountain climb at Taal, the two again rode
on through the towns of Balayan and Lemery before they parted ways in the
last two kilometers.
|The Philippine Star||