BAGUIO,  May 1, 2004
By Nelson Beltran  —  It’s the same old tale reprised over the same killer route — the rider in yellow finishing in defeat and the former leader wheeling back to prominence and possibly to coronation as king of the tour.

The Baguio-to-Baguio stage that ended at Burnham Park yesterday produced a major change in the storyline of the Air21 Tour Pilipinas 2004 which finishes in Manila tomorrow.

As promised, Rhyan Tanguilig waged a daring chase and regained the overall individual leadership which he may keep up to coronation day of the 21-day, 17-stage bikathon sponsored by Red Bull, Isuzu, Pharex, Summit, Gatorade, Lactovitale and Leo Magaway’s Elixir Bikeshop.

All indications now point to Enrique Domingo again settling for runner-up honors after dumping another Tour championship aspiration in the Benguet mountains.

Tanguilig ruled what has long been regarded as the Tour’s killer lap in a big comeback from his struggling ride Thursday as he wheeled back into the lead with two relatively easy stages left in the summer cycling classic.

As the remaining riders go down to Tarlac today for the penultimate stage, the 25-year-old Novo Vizcayano enjoys a lead of four minutes and 51 seconds over King of the Mountain awardee Lloyd Reynante.

At third is Albert Primero, 6:22 off the pace, followed by Joel Calderon (8:19), Lito Atilano (8:45), Ronald Gorantes (10:12), Domingo (13:25), virtual Rookie of the Year winner Baler Ravina (14:39), Santy Barnachea (16:20) and Victor Espiritu (18:39).

Tanguilig admitted he’s not among those known intrepid downhill riders but vowed to do everything to keep pace with his closest pursuers on the descent to Central Luzon.

"Sa totoo lang takot ako sa lusong. Pero bukas tatanggalin ko ang takot ko para madepensahan ang yellow jersey," said Tanguilig, who won the special prize of P25,000 put up in the killer lap. On hand during the awarding ceremonies were Air21 chairman Bert Lina and president Lito Alvarez.

The PLDT team skipper said he put into good use mountain-climbing wisdom imparted by provincemate Carlo Guieb and extra riding tips learned from the Internet.

Curiously, the aging mentor failed to finish the race where he had had glorious moments in his younger years. Guieb, one of four riders who had won back-to-back Tour titles, said that could be his final ride at 37.

Jeoffrey Talaver, Oscar Rendole and Robert Villaber didn’t start while a number of riders had yet to finish at presstime. Many riders complained of flu.

Domingo, meanwhile, said he’s still nursing a sore back but didn’t use this as excuse in relinquishing the overall individual lead.

"Pasensya na sa lahat ng umaasa, pero talagang wala (akong pang-ahon)," said Domingo, who, for the third time now in his career, was stripped of the yellow jersey here in Baguio.

Domingo finished 28th in the stage, 23 minutes and 20 seconds behind Tanguilig who ruled it in five hours, 53 minutes and 41 seconds.

Setting a target of a 20-minute advantage over the deposed overall leader, Tanguilig buckled down to work early, towing eight riders as they broke away from the field right on the first descent on Marcos Highway.

Tanguilig defied the perils of riding downhill and saw himself riding side by side with Ravina as they reached the border of Benguet and La Union.

Despite riding a heavy alloy bike compared to the ultra-modern carbon bike of his more illustrious breakaway partner, Ravina kept pace with Tanguilig, and the two emerged from the Naguillian ascent, ahead by 11 minutes over Domingo in the second big group.

Under the searing high-noon sun, Tanguilig and Ravina blazed through another downhill ride on Marcos Highway and helped each other in the Kennon Road climb to finish first and second to the cheers of a huge crowd lining both sides of the main road in Burnham Park.

Tanguilig also flashed home to warm welcome of girlfriend Jenny. The Aritao, Nueva Vizcaya native was the first to say the fight for the championship and the cash prize of P200,000 is far from finish. "Lahat ng nasa top 10, kalaban pa iyan. Hanggang hindi natatapos ang karera, hindi masasabing akin na iyan," said Tanguilig. At least two riders in Reynante and Calderon declared they will still wage a big fight in a bid to steal the crown from Tanguilig. "Hanggang hindi pa kami nakakarating sa Luneta, marami pang pwedeng mangyari. Last year nga No. 5 ako sa penultimate stage, No. 8 pa ako tumapos," said Reynante. "Ang cycling naman kasi 30 percent lang ang lakas. Fifty percent sa swerte at yung natitirang 20 percent sa gamit sa karera. Last year, maganda na ang pwesto ko, nakasagasa pa ako ng aso. Ayun naiwanan," added Reynante, looking to become the first second-generation rider to win a Tour crown. Lloyd is son of legendary cyclist Maui.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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