SORSOGON CITY, Philippines – Jan Paul Morales of Excellent Noodles delivered as promised and ruled the 12.3-kilometer Individual Time Trial Stage 1 of the 11th LBC Ronda Pilipinas that started in front of the provincial capitol and ended at the Rampeolas Boulevard here on Friday, March 11.
Morales, who was the 87th of the 104 cyclists flagged off, registered the fastest time of 16 minutes and 2 seconds to rule the lap, seized the individual general classification lead and wore the leader’s LBC red jersey in the 59.4km Team Time Trial Stage 2 also held here.
The former two-time Ronda king outpaced Ronald Oranza of Navy Standard Insurance and Ronnilan Quita of Go for Gold, who checked in at 16:16 and 16:18 minutes, respectively, to complete the podium finish.
“I keep saying I give it my everything to win again and I want to prove to our boss Alex Bilian and all our supporters that we’re worthy of their support,” said Morales.
Later in the afternoon, Excellent Noodles completed a magnificent day as it ruled the 59.4km Stage 2 Team Time Trial in 1:15:33 to wrest the early team classification lead.
Go for Gold came in second in 1:16:54 while reigning team champion Navy Standard Insurance surprisingly fell to third in 1:17:28.
Oranza, who assumed the team captain’s role after Morales left last year, was the second to the last rider released and was on pace in snatching the opening stage triumph until strong winds foiled his bid.
“I felt the strong winds earlier, it was really too strong. But I’m still happy with my performance,” said Oranza, who is out to reign supreme for the second time after winning it all four years ago.
Quita, for his part, stole the thunder from the big guns in a podium finish he dedicated to his team and wife Katrina.
“This is for them,” said the 27-year-old Camiling, Tarlac native who decided to give up pursuing his dream of a college education to focus on cycling.
Ageless Santy Barnachea of Excellent Noodles, Ronda’s 2011 inaugural champion and 2015 titlist who came out of retirement to get another shot at glory, also bared his fangs and finished fourth at 16:40.
The effort of the Morales-Barnachea duo highlighted the impressive start of Excellent Noodles, which had two more riders ending up in the top 10 – Ryan Tugawin and Joshua Mari Bonifacio – at Nos. 8 and 9 with the same 16:51 finishes.
Rounding out the top 10 were Go for Gold’s Jonel Carcueva and Marc Lago, who timed in identical 16:48s, Team Nueva Ecija’s Rustom Lim with a 16:51 and Drey’s Arjay Peralta with a 16:54.
Defending champion George Oconer of Navy Standard Insurance failed to impress and wound up at 19th with a 17:18.
The 10-stage, 10-day race will resume with 156.8km Sorsogon-Legazpi Stage 3 today.
This annual sports spectacle stakes a P3.5 million pot including P1 million to the champion courtesy of LBC Express, Inc., MVP Sports Foundation, Quad X, Smart, Twin Cycle Gear, Standard Insurance, Print2Go, Elves Bicycles, Elitewheels, Orome, Maynilad, PhilHydro, Garmin, Petron, Boy Kanin, Green Planet Bikeshop, Prolite, Fujiwara, Black Mamba Energy Drink, Lightwater, LBC Foundation, PhilCycling and the Games and Amusements Board. – Rappler.com