March 03, 2020 at 07:30 pm
Vigan City—George Oconer and his Philippine Navy-Standard Insurance teammates took a leisurely ride in the ninth and penultimate stage of the LBC Ronda Pilipinas 10th anniversary race here.
With the overall individual and team championship already in the bag, Oconer and the Navymen chose to stay behind a big second group and watched from afar as a five-man breakaway pack conspired to upset veteran rider Santy Barnachea at the end of the 176.4 kilometer journey from Pugo, La Union to Vigan City, Ilocos Sur.
Navy’s efforts almost overshadowed the win of Tarlac-Central Luzon’s Kenneth Solis, who was among the five riders to reach Stage 9’s final stop in four hours, 15 minutes for his first-ever lap win.
In second and third were Christopher Garado and Mar Sudario of South Luzon-Batangas and Bike Extreme Philippines.
Along with 7Eleven’s Mervin Corpuz and Celeste’s Bryant Sepnio, Solis and his group left Barnachea behind in the last kilometer inside Vigan City during a big skirmish.
“Ilang araw din kaming nag-trabaho, kaya tamang pahinga lang kami,” said the 28-year-old Oconer, who held on to the red jersey for the fifth straight day after they crossed the finish in front of the Ilocos Sur provincial capitol.
The Navymen were together when they finished behind the main peloton and let Team 7Eleven/Cliqq/Air21 take the stage honors with Bike Extreme and Team Tarlac-Central Luzon.
Oconer finished with a total clocking of 31:50:52 in front of teammates Ronald Oranza and Ronald Lomotos, who are 75 and 78 seconds behind in second and third with their times of 31:52:07 and 31:52:10.
Behind from fourth to sixth places are their teammates John Mark Camingao (31:52:45), Junrey Navarra (31:53:09) and El Joshua Carino (31:54:43).
Coach Reinhard Gorrantes said the Navymen were inspired to do better with the presence of continental teams like Team 7Eleven and Go For Gold.
“Na-dominate namin ang bawa’t stage. Pinangatawanan namin na kaya namin, lalo na’t nandiyan ang mga continental teams,” said Gorrantes, who added that they dedicated their effort to Standard Insurance Group chairman Ernesto “Judes” Echauz.
Meanwhile, the 26-year-old Solis earned his best finish as a professional in five years.
He said Barnachea’s bid to make a break for the stage win in the final kilometer became their cue to leave the latter behind.
“Pagdikit ni Santy, saka kami humiwalay. May bumanat pero sinubukan ko lang humabol. Gusto ko po talagang manalo. Humabol ‘yung peloton kasi maraming gustong manalo ngayon pero talagang nilayo na namin,” said Solis.
For Team Tarlac, it was their second lap triumph after Ryan Tugawin took Stage 2 in Legazpi City.
For Garado, it was one of his best finishes after his team almost did join the race when the fund intended for their campaign was used to help victims of the Taal eruption.
The final stage will be a criterium around Vigan, where Oconer and Navymen are expected to formalize their claim to the overall team and individual honors.
A P1-million cash prize awaits Oconer for the general classification plum and another P1 million is also up for grabs for the team winner.