TAGAYTAY, April 19, 2004
By Nelson Beltran — Another mountain-climbing stage. Another stage victory for Frederick Feliciano.

After outpedalling the rest of the pack in the Atimonan, Quezon mountains Saturday, the sturdy Aliaga, Nueva Ecija mountain bike specialist repeated the feat in the ascent from Nasugbu, Batangas to this mountaintop city yesterday, emerging the new overall leader after Stage Four of the Air21 Tour Pilipinas 2004.

Feliciano was actually beaten by Sherwin Diamsay in a wild five-man sprint finish but the Patrol 117 assistant skipper, bronze medalist in cross country event in last year’s SEA Games, gained stage honors on a technicality.

"Okay nasa sa akin ang overall leadership. Eh ibinigay pa sa akin itong stage victory, eh di mas maganda," said Feliciano, who thus became the tour’s first back-to-back stage winner following his triumphant ride in the Daet-Lucena run Saturday.

Diamsay, a little-known rider who works in their own farm in Tarlac while not competing, was relegated to fifth place as he was caught by the chief commissaire deviating from his lane in the mad dash to the finish.

He got into a shouting match with Lloyd Reynante who hobbled a few meters to the finish after his handle bar was hit by his foul-riding rival.

"Nagkasigawan talaga. Pero sana naman hindi niya iyon sinadya," said Reynante, who finished fourth but adjudged third placer because of the incident.

Also involved in the five-man sprint were Marsman Darwin Marana — a cousin of former two-time champion Carlo Guieb — and PLDT-NDD team captain Rhyan Tanguilig.

Feliciano, Diamsay, Reynante, Guieb and Tanguilig broke away from the peloton only 15 kilometers into the race that started in Lucena under early morning sunlight. They took turns in setting the pace to settle the fight for podium honors among themselves in the sprint.

But Feliciano, who is fast proving to have steely legs, made a decisive move hitting the peak of the steep Tagaytay climb to again win Summit KOM (King of the Mountain) points in this tour sponsored by Red Bull as official energy drink, Lactovitale, Isuzu, Summit, Pharex multivitamins and Gatorade.

"Nakita ko umatake sila Lloyd (Reynante) at (Ryan)Tanguilig, sumama na ako. Mukhang hindi ako nakita noong iba sa itaas. Kaya nakawala ako," said Feliciano.

With the yellow jersey and the KOM lead in his possession after two lung-busting stages, Feliciano said he might relax a bit and ride defensively as the tour goes down to Quezon City today.

But many of his rivals expect Feliciano and the other RP team members to have a showdown of their own as they traverse their training ground in Laguna and Rizal provinces on the way to Metro Manila.

At the start of the ride to Quezon City covering 212 kilometers, Feliciano leads overnight pacesetter Eusebio Quinones by seven seconds.

Probably feeling the heat of the race, the fancied team leaders made significant moves yesterday with Merculio Ramos of Samsung jumping from seventh to third, Tanguilig from 13th to fourth and Albert Primero from 12th to fifth.

Star carrier and Postmen skipper Enrique Domingo stayed at sixth, Renato Dolosa fell from third to ninth as he suffered mechanical trouble early on while reigning champ Arnel Quirimit moved two rungs up to 61st although he’s still riding sick.

Quirimit stressed he’s out of the fight for the individual championship and decided to abandon his ultra-modern Look bike for his old and trusted Giant starting in today’s race.

Despite a run-in between Postmen top riders Domingo and Tanguilig, the team produced good results yesterday, shooting to the top from third.

Domingo, a national rider, and Tanguilig, a trade team member, were heard trading barbs during the race Friday.

"Wala na iyon. Dahil lang siguro sa pagod iyon," Reynante said.

TOUR NOTES: If Quirimit were stricken with the flu in Stage Three Saturday, VAT third man Nilo Estayo struggled with a bum stomach yesterday. Key member of the Intel champion team last year, Estayo finished deadlast over an hour behind stage winner Eric Feliciano. He finished 73rd. "Lahat nagtaka huling dumating. Eh, alam na malakas iyan," said one official. Estayo was seen drinking some booze Friday night. PLDT coach Norberto Oconer questioned the penalty imposed on Diamsay. "Yung rule sa curfew, tinanggal nila. Eh bakit yung sa finish, bakit nila i-imposed?" said Oconer. Tour officials, however, said the board of commissaries and coaches , including Oconer, agreed to waive the curfew rule in the duration of the tour right in Stage One. Had the curfew rule not waived, Estayo and Jason Garillo would have been out of the race now... According to the race manual, Diamsay is to get a P1,000 fine and 30-second penalty in the general classification for his infraction.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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