emerges new hero of '98 Tour
The Philippine Star
CALAMBA, Laguna (Philippines)-- This town, the historic birthplace of the country's greatest hero, found itself an unwitting witness to the birth of a new cycling hero in Warren Davadilla, who won the fourth stage, retained the yellow jersey and moved farther away from the international field in the '98 Marlboro Centennial Tour yesterday.
On a day the Indonesians ran out of men and the Chinese ran out of tires, Davadilla made sure nobody among his rivals and even his peers in the Philippine team would strip him of the yellow jersey, and he did it with the courage, consistency and power unlikely demonstrated by a man his size.
From the time the 76 riders rumbled down the streets of Batangas City through the heights of the Tatlong M, the 5-foot-2, 21-year-old sophomore of the national team, was up front, staying there as riders surged and fell.
He completed his heroic stand for the third consecutive day by ruling the race over teammate Arnel Querimit, Santi Barnachea of Pangasinan and Malaysian Hoong Tseng Seong.
Querimit was tightly guarding Hoong in the last 200 meters when Davadilla, finding the opening from inside the rail, pounded past the two riders to win the 226.2-km. race to this town, near the national shrine dedicated to the memory of Dr. Jose P. Rizal.
Malaysia's Hoong also had his moments of glory.
The Southeast Asian Games road race champion who is preparing for the more challenging Commonwealth Games in October in his country, fought his Filipino rivals pound for pound and gamely joined them in a team time trial that increased their lead over their pursuers.
Then, in the last five kilometers, a punctured tire dropped him from the lead pack, but the Malaysian fought back, gave a chase that saw him join the three men on top in the last 500 meters and was already up front before Davadilla and company denied him the honor in front of over 5,000 screaming fans.
It was the biggest finish for the national team member who placed second in the first and second stages, and the stage victory, his very first in three years, gave him a lead of over four minutes over Querimit.
"Sinamantala ko na para mag-improve ang lead ko (I grabbed the chance so my lead would improve)," said Davadilla.
The defensive stance put up anew by defending champion Wong Kam Po of Hong Kong and RP team skipper Victor Espiritu in the middle of the race practically made the duo's title drive difficult, with Wong now 33 minutes off the pace at 39th Espiritu 32 minutes behind at 27th.
"Mahirap na silang manalo (They'll have difficulty winning the title)," said RP team coach Bart Flores. "At the way they are doing things and the lead increasing, they have to do extra effort in the mountain climbing phases, short of defeating everybody to reduce the deficit."
China's top men Tang Xuezhong and Pan Guangchun are also over 30 minutes behind.
And the Indonesians were virtually out of the individual race, with the withdrawal of Djatmiko, who simply pulled over in the initial stage of the race and signalled he could not go any farther.
The Chinese were victims anew of tire puncture, and were now one hour, three minutes behind the Philippines in the team race.
"We're just unlucky. We had eight punctures and it's good the Hong Kong team gave us two tires when we ran out of tires," said sports manager Wang Junyang.
All the Chinese had at least one flat tire, and, as a team, the other members had to wait for a fallen member and all of them rode as one to rejoin the main group. Eight times, all the Chinese fell back as one group and they eventually finished ninth in the team race, 84 minutes behind the RP team.
Querimit said his passport and birth certificate indicate his family name
is Quirimit. But he prefers it spelled Querimit. Sportswriters here granted
his wish... Tour officials have extended the curfew to 30 percent of the
arrival time of the first cyclist... Today's race from Calamba to Antipolo
will have 73 riders on the road, down from the original 84... The tour
is also supported by Adidas, Budget Car and Van Rentals, Gatorade, Viva
Mineral Water, Mita copiers, PLDT, San Miguel Beer, Mobiline Phone Pal,
Nexus Technologies, and Kubota generators.
|The Philippine Star||