Baguio City, May 10, 2003 --  Overall leader Arnel Quirimit came out 
relatively unscathed from what should have been a decisive lap in the Air 
21 Tour Pilipinas 2003 Friday, prompting him to declare the title is his.

Still, he couldn't get Rhyan Tanguilig to raise the white flag.

"Hindi pa tapos ang laban. Gagawin ko pa rin ang lahat ng makakaya ko para 
talunin siya (Quirimit)," said Tanguilig moments after finishing fourth in 
the 36-km individual time trial 13th lap from Rosario, La Union to here.

The punishing race-against-the-clock stage was won by rookie Ronald 
Gorrantes of the DENR Eco Savers, whose first lap victory earned him a 
special prize of P30,000 as well as a hand-carved trophy of an eagle.

Placido Valdez was also officially named as this year's King of the 
Mountain, edging out Quirimit for the title and the P30,000 prize that goes 
with it through a tiebreaker.

But focus remained fixed on the battle between Quirimit and Pagcor's 
Tanguilig, who claimed anything can still happen going into the last 
300-plus kilometers of the Tour that winds up Sunday.

Tanguilig's clocking of one hour, 20 minutes and 54 seconds for the lap 
that took the remaining 82 riders up unforgiving Kennon Road shaved three 
seconds off Quirimit's overnight lead.

He now trails the Tanduay team captain by a mere one minute and 39 seconds 
he would grimly try to overhaul beginning in Saturday's 199.8-km 
penultimate lap on relatively flat and well-paved roads from Agoo, La Union 
to Malolos, Bulacan.

Bothered by a slight cold that made it difficult for him to breathe, 
Quirimit could only finish fifth in Friday's stage. But the knowledge his 
lead remained relatively intact boosted his confidence no end.

"Di na namin pakakawalan ng mga teammates ko ito (title). Su-sure bolin ko 
na ito, huwag lang magkaka-trouble" he stated.

Samsung skipper Merculio Ramos, Quirimit's RP Teammate and currently third 
in the overall standings, said the crown and the P200,000 champion's purse 
are safely in Quirimit's grasp.

"Kasi ang lap bukas at sa Luneta patag na. Kaya mahihirapan nang matanggal 
kay Arnel ang championship,"said Ramos, who wore the yellow jersey for a 
full weekbefore relinquishing it to Quirimit after the 10th lap. He trails 
Quirimit by 5:07.

Tanguilig's confidence, however, remained intact as well and he hopes some 
changes in Saturday's lap that would add at least 10 kms to the stage would 
help his cause.

Tour officials are aiming to avoid the expected traffic congestion through 
San Matias and Apalit towns and are diverting the cyclists to Magalang, 
Baliwag, Plaridel and out of Calumpit.

"Marami pang p'wedeng mangyari d'yan. Kung iba nag-give up na, ako hindi 
pa," said Tanguilig.

Gorrantes, who started the day eighth, climbed two notches higher after 
submitting a clocking of one hour, 18 minutes and 15 seconds.

The 20-year-old Bacolod City native lapped up Felix Celeste, Renato Dolosa, 
Santi Barnachea and Albert Primero in that order to win over Pagcor's Lloyd 
Reynante and VAT Riders' Joel Calderon.

Valdez and Quirimit wound up with 32 points in the KOM race but the award 
went to the Drug Busters captain after officials cited a UCI rule of giving 
the award to the rider who tops a more difficult climb.

The most difficult climb this year was the San Fernando, La Union to 
Baguio12th lap, where Valdez fashioned a wire-to-wire victory. (By NOLI 
CORTEZ, Malaya)

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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