Ipoh, Malaysia—Nichol Pareja did everything in his power to leave a lasting mark on Stage 4 on Tuesday as team 7-Eleven-Cliqq-Air21-RoadbikePhilippines barely missed a podium finish yet again in the PETRONAS Le Tour de Langkawi here.
Acting on the instruction of team director Ric Rodriguez to be more aggressive in the next stages, Pareja initiated an early breakaway in this mostly flat 140.1-km stage that started at Bukit Mertajam in Penang and ended in Meru Raya, Ipoh.
But the well-paved, mostly straight route was taken with ease by the peloton and caught up with Pareja.
Many times, he attempted to split from the big group, but the leaders, who were always on the lookout for any attempt to split from the main group, would always bring the pack as one.
“Ilang beses ako nag-try, kasi sabi ni sir Ric, talagang pukpok na kami,” said Pareja, a native of Negros Occidental, who now lives in Quezon City, and whose final attempt at gaining headway was only foiled in the final five kilometers.
His efforts earned him a second-place finish in the King of the Mountain honor and third place in the sprint. His hard work and aggressive stance could have earned him the “Most Combative Rider” award and the top prize money and podium trophy that goes with it.
But the honor went to Giulio Mossotto of Coratec Selle Italia.
“I actually appealed to the (race) officials they award the Most Combative award because our rider has done it all in the race. I asked for clarification so that next time, we will do really more,” said Rodriguez.
Nevertheless, Pareja and teammates Ryan Tugawin, Ismael Gorospe, Junreck Carcueva, Rench Michael Bondoc, and Joshua Pascual came to the finish with the big pack of riders, all with a similar clocking of 3 hours and 06.05 minutes.
The previous day, it was Carcueva, who almost went up the podium when he placed second in the Best Asian rider category during Stage 2.
Daniel Babor of Caja Rural-Seguros took stage honors, while second placer Goerge Jackson of Bolton Equities Black Spoke retained the overall leadership with an aggregate time of 16.01.04.
He will be the marked man as he wears the Petronas’ green jersey for the second straight day as the riders tackle the tough Stage 5 race from Slim River in Ipoh to Genting Highlands in Pahang.
It’s a short 126.4-kilometer race but half of it is a trek to the Genting Summit at 1,800-meters above sea level
“Basta ang goal lang naming lagi dito sa mga susunod na stages ay atake at aggressiveness to get points and incentives sa KOM, Sprint, best Asian awards or most combative and if possible, stage win,” added Rodriguez.