PALAYAN CITY, Nueva Ecija—Jan Paul Morales of Standard Insurance-Navy claimed his second straight stage victory even as teammate George Oconer strengthened his hold of the solo lead after Stage Seven of the LBC Ronda Pilipinas 10th anniversary race yesterday.
The 34-year-old Morales, the 2016 and 2017 champion, out-sprinted Dominic Perez of Bicycology-Army and Rustom Lim of 7Eleven Cliqq-Air21 by Roadbike Philippines in a frantic mass finish witnessed by hundreds of cycling fans in this city.
Morales, who also won the Stage 6, clocked two hours, 35 minutes and 20 seconds in completing the 110.6-km lap that started in Tarlac.
The win enabled Morales to also fortify his grip of the CCN sprint race in this 10-stage event presented by LBC and supported by the Manny V. Pangilinan Sports Foundation.
Morales and the rest of the Ronda cavalcade were met warmly by a big group of local riders as well as local folks headed by host Mayor Adrianne Mae Cuevas, who gave Team Nueva Ecija P100,000 for its campaign.
It was the second stage triumph for the Calumpang, Marikina native after he also reigned supreme in the Tarlac-Tarlac Stage Six the day before.
Oconer also kept his hold of the individual general classification lead with an aggregate clocking of 23:04:31.
The 28-year-old Oconer will thus wear the LBC red jersey for the third straight day in the 170km Stage Eight where they will tackle the highly-demanding Baguio ascent.
“We will know tomorrow (today) after the Baguio stage if we will keep the lead or not because the climb is really long and stiff,” said Oconer, the 2015 runner up who is seeking his first title.
Morales later admitted he went for the lap victory after seeing a 7Eleven rider up front.
“We were just told there was a 7Eleven rider there so I just went for it, good thing I won,” said Morales, who sacrificed his title chances by helping Oconer and five other temmates—Ronald Oranza, Ronald Lomotos, John Mark Camingao, Junrey Navarra and El Joshua Carino—zoom to the top after Stage Five in Antipolo Thursday.
Morales’ triumph handed Standard its fourth straight lap triumph with the first two won by Lomotos (Stage Four) in Lucena Wednesday, and Camingao in Stage Five.
Oranza, the 2018 Ronda king, was at second in 23:05:46, Lomotos at No. 3 in 23:05:49, Camingao at No. 4 in 23:06:24, Navarra at No. 5 in 23:06:48 and Carino at No. 6 in 23:08:22.
Rounding up the top 10 were Mark Julius Bordeos of Bicycology (23:09:45), Rustom Lim of 7Eleven (23:09:47) and Go for Gold’s Jonel Carcueva (23:09:59) and Ismael Grospe, Jr. (23:10:19).
Standard have also virtually clinched the team race as it leads in 92:18:09 ahead of Go for Gold (92:41:49) and Bicycology (92:43:28) in this event backed by Palayan, Nueva Ecija, Versa, 8A Performance, Print2Go, Petron, Green Planet, Bike Xtreme, Standard Insurance, Spyder, CCN, Lightwater, Prolite, Guerciotti, Black Mamba, Boy Kanin, Vitamin Boost, NLEX-SCTEX, Maynilad, 3Q Sports Event Management Inc., LBC Foundation and PhilCycling.