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Navy’s George Oconer not letting guard down despite Ronda Pilipinas lead


TARLAC CITY — George Oconer and his Standard Insurance-Navy team will try to keep the individual and team lead when the LBC Ronda Pilipinas 10th anniversary race resumes today in the 111.9km Stage Six that starts at the capitol and ends at the Tarlac Recreation Center here.

Oconer, 28, has zoomed from second to first place in the general classification race after finishing in the six-man, all-Standard pack that dominated Stage Five in Antipolo on Thursday with an aggregate clocking of 17 hours, 43 minutes and 13 seconds.

He is more than a minute ahead of teammate Ronald Oranza, who is currently at second at 17:55:28; meanwhile, Ronald Lomotos, John Mark Camingao, Junrey Navarra and El Joshua Carino are at third to sixth spots in, 17:55:31, 17:56:06, 17:56:30 and 17:58:04, respectively. Rounding up the top 10 were former leader Mark Julius Bordeos of Bicycology-Army (17:59:27); Rustom Lim of 7Eleven Cliqq-Air21 by Roadbike Philippines (17:59:33); then Jonel Carcueva (17:59:41) and Ismael Grospe, Jr. (18:00:01) of Go for Gold.

Oconer, son of two-time Olympian Norberto, refused to count the chickens before they hatch, though.

“Anything can happen in the last five stages. That’s why I don’t want to celebrate early. I’ll just do my best and if I win, I win,” said Oconer, who was third in the inaugural edition of this race in 2011 and second in 2015.

Oconer is specifically wary of the Palayan-Baguio Stage Eight, where 75 surviving riders out of the original 88 will tackle the dreaded ascent in this race presented by LBC and supported by the Manny V. Pangilinan Sports Foundation.

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“That stage in Baguio is really difficult. That will decide everything,” he said.

The Navymen are also expected to do everything to protect the team lead against No. 2 Go for Gold (72:00:37) and No. 3 Bicyology-Army (72:02:16).

“We will do our best to also keep the team lead and not relax,” said Standard skipper Jan Paul Morales, the 2016 and 2017 Ronda king.

Morales said they spent the much-needed one-day breather to rest a bit after a grueling first five stages of this event backed by 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.

“We just took an easy ride around the city and re-energize,” said the 34-year-old Morales.

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