BAGUIO CITY, Philippines – Mindanao-Cycleline Butuan's Junrey Navarra outshone veteran riders as he ruled the "killer" Stage 14 even as PLDT-Spyder's Ronald Oranza survived a spill and the spirited challenge of his closest foes to retain the overall lead in the Ronda Pilipinas 2013 yesterday.
Navarra, from General Santos, pulled off a dominant performance in the 133.5-km Stage 14 – considered the toughest lap here – starting in Bayombong, Nueva Vizcaya and ending in this cool, breezy mountain top city.
So spectactular was Navarra that he came in almost six minutes ahead of everybody by clocking four hours, 44 minutes, 17 seconds, completing his impressive conquest of the four ascents.
Navarra also crowned himself Ronda’s new King of the Mountain by topping all four ascents, unseating back-to-back titlist Irish Valenzuela of LPGMA-American Vinyl.
Trailing the 25-year-old Valenzuela in the KOM race the day before, 18-36, Navarra topped the four climbs to end up with lopsided margin, 78-44.
With the feat, Navarra claimed more than P100,000 including P50,000 from topping the lap and another P50,000 for emerging the newly crowned KOM winner.
"I'm just happy right now, I can't describe the feeling," said Navarra.
While Navarra had a relatively easy time, Oranza had to recover from a spill in the final 30-km stretch and turn back Navy-Standard’s Santy Barnachea and Valenzuela.
Navarra ended up in a six-man group composed of himself, Barnachea, Valenzuela, Roadbike Ph's Ronald Gorantes and last year's Ronda king Mark Galedo and PLDT-Spyder's El Joshua Carino that checked in at fourth with identical times of 4:50.39.
That superb stint in the mountains propeled Navarra to No. 8 in 52:27.23 in this race financed by LBC Express, Inc., the country’s leading courier, and sanctioned by PhilCycling.
Oranza remains atop the heap in 52:10.53, a mere three seconds atop Barnachea’s 52:10.56 and 33 seconds ahead of Valenzuela's 52:11.56 in this event backed by Total, the MVP Sports Foundation, Jinbei Auto, Smart, Icom iDAS, Standard Insurance, Maynilad, SunStar and NLEX.
Rounding up the top were Gorantes (52:12.04), Carino (52:16.15), LPGMA's Cris Joven (52:24.54), defending champion Mark Galedo of Roadbike Ph, VMobile-Smart's Joel Calderon (52:27.56) and Navy’s George Oconer (52:49.46).
Oranza gained on the frontrunners despite scraping his right thigh and leg and dealing with cramps.
"My body hurts all over but it was worth it because I managed to hold on to the lead," said Oranza.
Although Barnachea and Valenzuela failed in their bids to snatch the overall lead, they remained confident going into the final two stages of this 16-stage, 21-day meet including today’s 34-km Stage 15 or individual time trial.
"I expect a reshuffle in the ITT tomorrow (today)," said Barnachea, a seasoned 36-year-old cyclist who topped the inaugural staging of Ronda aside from his pair of Tour victories in 2002 and 2006.
While Navarra seized the day, Valenzuela appeared embattled to win his first major title as he blew his bid for a KOM grandslam.
"It hurts," said Valenzuela, who is on the edge of tears after he was scolded by LPGMA coach Renato Dolosa at the end of the race.
Navy's Daniel Asto edged Roadbike Ph's Baler Ravina, the only cyclist who won the KOM three straight times from 2007-09, to clinch second place while the latter wound up completing the podium finish.
"It's a good feeling making it to the podium for the first time this year," said Asto.
For the 31-year-old Ravina, who erased a 13-minute deficit with an inspiring victory in the Bayombong-Baguio course to overtake the highly favored Iranians for last year's Le Tour crown, earning the third spot was a feat in itselt since he had to endure health and respiratory problems during the run.
"I was sick the whole month from coughing, colds and fever so I had little energy the whole race," said Ravina. "Good thing I still managed to end up third here in Baguio, which I consider my favorite stage because I almost always win here in the past."
Oranza's perseverance helped PLDT-Spyder regain the overall team lead with a total clocking of 153:20.34, just 20 seconds ahead of Stage 13 leader Navy-Standard, which fell to second again in 153:20.53 atop No. 3 Roadbike Phl’s 153:23.11.