By Jerome Lagunzad
TARLAC CITY – Pacesetting Ronald Oranza brushed off any scare left on his Navy-Standard Insurance teammates and their fans by topping the 31.5-kilometer Stage 7 in dominant fashion while widening his gap over his main rivals in the 2018 Ronda Pilipinas presented by LBC.
After sustaining some gashes on his right leg in a minor crash in Stage 6 the other day, Oranza, 25, frolicked under a bright Saturday sunshine as he negotiated the individual time trial, supposedly made tougher by an uphill four-kilometer climb to the Monasterio de Tarlac, with ease, checking in at 44 minutes and 44 seconds.
“Hindi ko na inisip ‘yung sakit. Ang ginawa ko lang ngayon, sumipa nang sumipa,” said the Villasis, Pangasinan native, the last rider from the 83-strong group who was flagged off in front of the Tarlac Provincial Capitol here.
While Oranza claimed his third lap victory and padded his lead over teammate Jan Paul Morales, the reigning back-to-back champion, to nearly seven minutes with a total clocking of 21 hours, one minute and 56 seconds, the Navymen suffered a big blow with the disqualification of Ronald Lomotos for the rest of the 12-stage race.
Running at third overall after the first six stages, Lomotos, 23, struggled to keep pace with his fancied teammates as he was overtaken by Morales at the 15km mark and apparently incurred a drafting violation.
That left chief commissaire Micky Rob with no other choice but to crack the whip on the 23-year-old native of San Felipe, Zambales, who supposedly finished 13th overall in the shortest stage and could have retained his spot in the individual rankings.
“Mahina kasi siya sa time trial tapos siguro groggy na,” lamented Morales, the Navymen’s skipper. “Pero dapat may warning lang muna. Hindi kamatayan agad ang hinatol sa kanya.”
Navy-Standard Insurance coach Reinhard Gorrantes tried hard to plead Lomotos’ case to Rob, to no avail.
“Hindi ko naman alam na ganun kasi matagal naman na akong naglalaro. Ang agwat ko rin naman sa bike (ni Morales), siguro mga 50 meters na, pagtuhog sa akin. Tsaka ‘yung tutok ko wala pa namang 10 seconds,” said Lomotos, ruing a blown chance.