LAOAG, MAY 22, 2007
(MALAYA) BY ALDRIN QUINTO – Vellum had the best setup, the best gear and, not surprisingly, the best time.

With its team members working as one and utilizing some of the lightest and high-spec carbon composite wheel sets, aerobars and aero-helms that arrived from Manila just before the start of the race, Frederick Feliciano and the rest of the Vellum squad reigned supreme in Monday’s Stage 5 of the Padyak Pinoy, an 83-kilometer Team Time Trial from Vigan to this city.

Feliciano, winner of the short and flat prologue, an individual time trial that kicked off the race last Thursday, towed co-captain Eusebio Quiñones, Rolando Burgos and Rey Martin to the finish line in one hour, 48 minutes and 51.010 seconds to take stage honors and grab the lead in the team standings.

Team Champion, skippered by last year’s Tour champion Santy Barnachea, logged the second-best time of 1:49:52.280 while 1996 summer bikathon winner Victor Espiritu led Wow Magic Sing to third place in 1:50:29.030.

The teams of eight riders each were flagged off five minutes apart. Squads are credited with the time of the fourth team member to cross the finish line.

Vellum jumped to the top of the standings with a total time of 55:33:27.431, over a minute better than erstwhile leader and defending team champion Cossack Vodka (55:35:24.48). Cool Pap was running third in 55:38:00.77, followed by Mail and More (55:38:30.5), Champion (55:38:52.69), Caltex (55:42:02.572), Wow Magic Sing (55:55:34.91), Air21 55:58:11:779, U-Freight (56:02:57.513), Bacchus (56:04:54:554), Cargohaus (56:16:31.795), and the Vis-Min selection (57:19:05.241).

Instead of a relaxed ride to preserve his energy for the mountain stages in the next few days, Feliciano went to work and made the team push hard throughout, obviously the top team prize of P500,000 in mind, in contrast to the P50,000 top prize in the individual side of the race.

"Maganda ‘yung teamwork namin. Kailangan kasing magtrabaho para makuha rin ‘yung team title. Hindi pwedeng ‘yung individual lang, ‘yung sarili lang ang isipin," said Feliciano.

"Kahit na contender ka sa individual, nandoon ‘yung pressure as team captain na i-push ‘yung team. Maganda naman ‘yung response nila," he added.

Team coach Cesar Lobramonte said he was elated the Vellum riders followed their game plan and kept a quick pace despite the wet and tricky route after heavy morning rains in Ilocos Sur, but stressed the equipment made a big difference. Vellum was the only team that provided all their riders aero helms, a crucial equipment in time trials, and other racing gear.

"May kaunti kaming advantage dahil sa equipment. So mataas ang morale nila, kumpiyansa sa stage," said Lobramonte.

Vellum reached the halfway mark in 54 minutes, with March McQuinn Aleonar, Roderick Acosta, Michael John David and Kennedy Guinoo matching strides with Feliciano, Quiñones, Burgos and Martin before eventually fading.

"Natutuwa ako nasunod naman ‘yung plano. Sabi ko wala silang karapatang bumitaw hanggang hindi dumarating ‘yung last few kilometers. Mabuti nagtuloy-tuloy, ‘yung lakas nila hindi nagbabago," said Lobramonte, who started coaching in 1991.

Two-time champion Renato Dolosa, coach of Cosack Vodka, said he was not surprised Vellum hogged the limelight in the stage, mainly due to the team’s better and more expensive equipment. Cossack, skippered by Renato Sembrano, led the standings at the start of the day but placed sixth in Stage 5, clocking 1:51:45.100 to slip to second in the rankings.

"Tanggap namin, hindi kami mananalo ngayon. Unang-una na ‘yung equipment," said Dolosa, winner of the bike tour in 1992 and 1995.

"Second lang ang lakas ng rider tsaka diskarte. Kung pareho lang ang lakas ng rider, magkakatalo sa equipment. Pero malakas ang sampalataya ko na mababawi rin naman," said Dolosa, who is looking to clinch the first back-to-back tour team championship in recent memory.

"History ang gusto ko, hindi naman yung pera. Naniniwala ako, makukuha namin ‘yung team title ulit," he said.

Like Feliciano, other contenders for the individual title also pushed hard, even though the stage result does not count in the riders’ individual total clocking in the event presented by Tanduay in cooperation with Wow Magic Sing and Air21.

"Gusto ko ring makuha ‘yung team title, siyempre. Mas malaki rin talaga kasi ‘yung premyo sa team kaya bukas na ‘yung pahinga," said Barnachea.

The 96 riders recharge their bodies on Tuesday before the tour returns on the road Wednesday for Stage 6, a 213-kilometer ride from this city to San Fernando, La Union, this year’s second-longest stage and an opportunity for sprinters to surge ahead before the riders embark on the mountain stages of the event organized by the Dynamic Outsource Solutions Inc. headed by Gary Cayton.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

All rights reserved