by Jerome Lagunzad
Ronald Oranza has risen to become the current toast of Philippine cycling.
The 25-year-old Navy-Standard Insurance rider finished a strong second to fellow Navyman Jan Paul Morales in the 50-kilometer Stage 12 criterium race yesterday to complete his breakthrough triumph in the 2018 Ronda Pilipinas presented by LBC.
Oranza checked in half-a-bike length behind Morales, who claimed his third stage victory in one hour, 28 minutes and 15 seconds. But the Villasis, Pangasinan pride has already clinched the coveted crown with a total clocking of 34:11:23, more than 11 minutes ahead of his Calumpang, Marikina City counterpart.
“Wala akong maisip ngayon kasi sobrang saya ko,” said Oranza who skipped last year’s edition to serve his duties to the national team.
Boosted by three lap victories in the first eight stages, Oranza also put himself in the elite company of Ronda champions like Mark Galedo, Reimon Lapaza, Irish Valenzuela and former two-time winner Santy Barnachea.
“Expect ko naman na kaya kong mag-champion ngayong taon. Nag-peak rin kami (Navymen) sa karera ngayon,” said Oranza, who seized the coveted LBC Red Jersey from Morales by dominating the Stage 2 trek from Vigan City, Ilocos Sur up north to Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte.
Navy riders ruled 10 of the 12 stages on tap, including the team time trial in Stage 8. Promising El Joshua Cariño ruled Stage 5 while Junrey Navara, the third overall finisher, showcased his climbing prowess by topping Stages 10 and 11 in Calaca, Batangas.
“Kailangan namin magpakitang gilas dahil andyan ‘yung boss namin, si Sir Judes,” said Morales, referring to chief benefactor Judes Echauz.
Morales emerged as the Sprint King.
The diminutive Navara, 26, as expected, claimed the King of the Mountain title while Go for Gold Developmental Team’s Jay Lampawog, only 20 and seen by many as a future Ronda champion, emerged as the best young rider under 23 years old.
Rounding up the Top 10 finishers were Go for Gold Elite Team skipper George Oconer (fourth spot, 34:38:15), Navy’s Jhon Mark Camingao (fifth, 34:39:30), Army-Bicycology Shop’s Cris Joven (sixth, 34:41:21), Go for Gold Elite’s Boots Ryan Cayubit (seventh, 34:43:50), Cariño (eighth, 34:45:32), Lampawog (ninth, 34:48:03), and Navy’s Rudy Roque (10th, 34:49:52).
Supporting the annual cycling race are MVP Sports Foundation, Filinvest, Philippine Rabbit, CCN, Petron, Versa.ph, 3Q Sports Event Management, Inc., Boy Kanin, Franzia, Standard Insurance, Bike Xtreme, SH+, Guerciotti, Prolite, Green Planet, Maynilad, NLEX Sports, Lightwater, LBC Foundation and PhilCycling.