Tagaytay City, May 1, 2003 --  Arnel Quirimit transformed himself from a 
tired-looking cyclist to his tenacious self of old overnight to win the 
fifth stage Wednesday and serve notice he is far from finished in the Air 
21 Tour Pilipinas 2003.

"Naramdaman ko kasi na medyo malakas pa. At saka naisip ko na kulang ang 
isang panalo. Kailangan makakuha muna ng isa pa," said Quirimit, who 
initiated several breakaways from the start in Lucena.

Several riders managed to keep pace with Quirimit for majority of the way, 
only to be left in his wake once he put on a decisive burst of speed in the 
last five kilometers of the long, winding ascent to this scenic city 
overlooking Taal volcano.

"Naisipan kong tumira kaya tinesting ko. Eh lumayo, tinuloy-tuloy ko na," 
said Quirimit, who won the first lap and latched on to the overall lead for 
two days before relinquishing it with a disappointing performance in the 
fourth stage Tuesday.

He crossed the finish line all alone, punctuating his emphatic victory by 
raising both hands with still a good 15 meters to go and throwing a kiss 
heavenward before acknowledging the cheers of the appreciative crowd.

Quirimit, skipper of Tanduay, became the second rider to win two laps after 
Intel counterpart Warren Davadilla, who topped the third and fourth stages.

More important, he climbed two notches to fourth in the Magic Top 10 where 
overall leader Merculio Ramos of Samsung survived numerous assaults on his 
day-old coveted perch with flying colors.

"Ni hindi ko nga mabilang ang dami ng beses na inatake ako," said Ramos, 
who refused to be cowed by the pressure and managed to quash any would-be 
breakaway from among the other riders in the top 10.

"Pinilit ko ring kumawala, pero lahat sila tulong-tulong sa paghabol. Kaya 
ang ginawa ko pakapit-kapit na lang," he added.

His all-around efforts paid off as he checked in with the 14-man fourth 
group, only 46 seconds behind Quirimit, which enabled him to maintain his 
overnight lead over Drug Busters' Placido Valdez and Davadilla.

Thursday's sixth lap is a 175.4-km massed start that will take the riders 
to Marikina via a rollercoaster ride through the boondocks of Laguna and 
hills of Rizal.

Ramos said he is well-prepared for whatever challenge his pursuers may pose.

"Babantayan ko lang muna ang mga nasa likuran ko. Aalagaan ko na lang ang 
overall lead," said the 24-year-old rice farmer's son, who finished 16th in 
his first crack in the Tour in 1998.

Tanduay assistant skipper Ericson Obosa wound up second behind Quirimit, 
helping the Rhum Riders to jump from 10th to second in the team competition 
of the event also supported by Accel, Lipovitan, BPI-MS, FedEx, Mail and 
More, Selletalia-Look-Vittoria, Longines, Philtranco and San Mig Light.

Ramos' Samsung vaulted into the lead from fifth overnight, a mere 16 
seconds ahead of Tanduay, which towed Eco Savers by just a shade over one 
minute. (By NOLI CORTEZ, Malaya)

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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