Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Stage 5 Tour of Luzon: Being So Close And Yet So Far...

by: Mhe-anne L. Ojeda

My father, Joy and I planned on seeing the Stage 5 of the Tour of Luzon 2010 which is the first road race from Clark to Tarlac City. Reid texted me that the finish line would be at the National Sports Complex in Tarlac. Since we will not be able to keep up with their bicycle's speed if we attend the opening at Clark Airbase, we decided to go straight to the National Sports Complex.

When we arrived, we saw the banners of the Tour of Luzon and was confident that we were in the right place. We then put our surprise banner along the banners of the Tour sponsors. Then we waited. After a few hours, we heard the escort vehicles coming which means that some of the riders have arrived. I was very excited and anxious to see Reid and his team among the first batch of riders. But the vehicles didn't come. We then learned that the finish line is not at the National Sports Complex but at the Echo Park summit (Monastery) which is another 10kms from where we were. But the riders will all be coming to the Sports Complex for lunch.

Reid finished fourth in the Stage 5 and took over the yellow jersey from his team mate Ryan AndersonThe team was very surprised with the banner we made and posed with us. They even signed the banner!!!

I copy pasted the news on today's event posted in Philippine Cycling News.

ECHO PARK MONASTERY, San Jose Tarlac - Smart-Rudy Project assistant skipper and veteran tour rider Tomas Martinez showed more than impressive climbing skills on his way to victory in this year's Tour of Luzon first summit finish - a 139km run from Clark to the summit of the stunning 1,020 foot San Jose Echopark Monastery Tarlac.

The 29-year-old Filipino rider from Baras Baras Tarlac City belied his unassuming nature to show nerves of steel in the face of a formidable opponent, Dennis Nickalk of the powerful EMG Cycling from South Africa and the reigning Tour of Taiwan Mountain’s Champion whose reputation struck fear into rivals during last year’s race.

Racing for the same team, Smart Rudy Project, the collaboration of Martinez and 2009 Padyak Pinoy Champion Joel Calderon, himself a formidable climber was always going to create sparks. The duo who are using the race as preparation for the 4 day Tour de Filipinas in April have shown consistent improvement as the days go by.

"It’s a compatible situation," Tomas said. "I knew the team was coming here to train and find the proper team chemistry, and we try to make the most of the opportunities. Our coaching staff created a plan and we stuck to it. Now the training is paying off and the team has been awesome in supporting each other"

Smart Rudy Project asst team coach Neil Barlis would only say after the stage: "After only 2 weeks of forming the team and the exacting training and numerous recon rides to perform well over these multi stage races & winning the green & polkadot jersey has been quite a statement."

Once inside the last 30kms, Tomas broke away from an elite group of riders with Kelly Benefits and EMG in the fold. With speeds reaching 60kph on the initial 100kms of flat roads He was able get get away but was put on a short leash as he maintained a 20 second lead on the chasing pack. As the kilometers dwindled, he was able to increase his lead as the chasing pack started to get disorganized.

On the first summit finish to The Monastery that took the riders to a 5km wall Martinez scored a memorable victory with Dennis Nickalk coming in at a close 2nd. “I thought i was going to lose the stage. When i looked back with 1km remaining, i saw an EMG clawing back to me. With my coach giving me time checks, i was able to hold him off to the finish with only meters to spare. It is one of the best wins of my career, and to be in the polka dot jersey makes it more memorable. The support of our sponsors, my wife and daughter watching and my coaches has made a huge impact on our morale.”

Yellow Jersey holder Ryan Anderson of KBS fell further back in the stage after duelling with James Perry of EMG allowing his KBS teammate Reid Mumford take over the yellow jersey. With three more summit finishes online for the next three days, there should be more battles for the yellow jersey. Tomorrow’s stage starts in Subic going to Morong - Pillar and makes a U turn and back to Subic. The stage is riddled with climbs along the way and should shake the group once again.

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