Gingoog City’s Lloyd Berjame became the youngest stage winner at 21 years old in the ongoing Padyak Pinoy 2009 Tour of Champions by grabbing top honors in Stage 6.
Berjame, of team American Vinyl, crossed the finish line alone, clocking three hours, 44 minutes and 55.621 seconds, 10 seconds ahead of a five-man second group led by his teammate Ronnel Hualda and U-Freight skipper Ericson Obosa.
“Natutuwa ako sa unang (stage) panalo ko,” said Berjame, who was with a six-rider group that broke away near the Laoag City U-turn and slowly increased its pace to leave the leaders in the third group–including Mail and More captain Warren Davadilla and Tanduay’s Renato Sembrano–and the fourth group that included most of the top 10 riders, among them Yellow Jersey holder Santy Barnachea of ASir21.
Davadilla and Co. crossed the line 30 seconds after Baerjame, while Barnachea’s bunch of 17 riders finished 1:11 later.
Except for a few short portions of the national highway between Vigan and Laoag City in Ilocos Norte undergoing repair, the 160-km Stage 6 was ran on flat, well-paved roads that prevented any rider in the elite field to make a significant dent in the individual overall general classification going into the last two crucial stages of the tour presented by Tanduay with Smart and Air21 as major sponsors and organized by the Dynamic Outsource Solutions, Inc.
Chief Commissaire Renato del Mundo said the field–now reduced to 70 from the staring list of 75–is bracing for the crucial final two stages–Thurday’s 163-km climb from here to La Trindiad, Benguet, via Naguilian Road, and Friday’s trade mark “Ocho-ocho” or the 195-km Baguio-Baguio killer stage.
“The tour virtually starts from scratch tomorrow,” said Del Mundo, a UCI continental commissaire who is being assisted by Fernando Balang, Jun Lomibao, Carlos Gredonia and Juancho Ramores.
“Ang last two (stages) talaga ang pinakamahirap,” said Barnachea, who expects other riders in the top 10 to go for his next again on Thursday.
Barnachea has a total time 18 hours, 41 minutes and 42 seconds and kept his 1:33 lead over Cargohaus skipper Frederick Feliciano, 2:00 over Ube Media’s Oscar Rindole, 2:17 over Burger King’s Baler Ravina and 2:44 over American Vinyl’s Lloyd Lucien Reynante.
The pride of Asingan, Pangasinan, Barnachea is a relatively strong climber. But he has to contend with Ravina, Feliciano and Reynante–all acknowledged strong climbers.
“Silang tatlo ang paborito sa akyatin,” he said.
Feliciano, runner-up in 2006, is picked to come out strong this time as the tour wraps up with the eighth stage on Friday.
“Nakuha ko ang Baguio-Baguio noon (2006) pero hindi ko alam ang mangyayari kasi kulang ang preparasyon ko para sa taong ito,” said the Novo Ecijano, who has won a silver medal in the Southeast Asian Games in mountain bike’s cross country event.
Rindole admitted Ravina and Feliciano will be his top rivals for the King of the Mountain honors.
“Nakapagpahinga kanina at ‘yung No. 1 to 6 nagbantayan lang,” he said, adding “sa last two stages magkakatalo at nandyan sina Ravina at Feliciano.”
With Berjame and Hualda finishing 1-2 and Reynante completing the stage in the fourth group, American Vinyl managed to draw some attention in the team general classification which offers P500,000 to the winning squad.