PALAYAN CITY, Nueva Ecija — Jan Paul Morales of Standard Insurance-Navy claimed his second straight stage victory, while teammate George Oconer retains his hold of the solo lead after Stage Seven of the LBC Ronda Pilipinas 10th anniversary race, Sunday.
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 in two hours, 35 minutes and 20 seconds to snare the 110.6km lap that started in Tarlac and ended here.
By doing so, Morales has also firmed up his grip of the CCN sprint race in this 10-stage race 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 and residents, headed by host Mayor Adrianne Mae Cuevas, who has joined Ronda as one of its sponsors while giving P100,000 to Team Nueva Ecija’s 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 was in that same group to keep his stranglehold 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 dreaded Baguio accent.
“We will know tomorrow 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, in Filipino.
Morales later admitted he went for the lap victory after seeing a 7Eleven rider upfront.
“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 teammates — 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 delivered by Lomotos in Stage Four in Lucena on Wednesday, then 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.