By Jerome Lagunzad
BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya – Familiarity worked to perfection for Philippine Navy-Standard Insurance skipper Ronald Oranza and his teammates yesterday as the fancied Navymen put on a show of force in Stage 2 of the 2018 Le Tour de Filipinas.
Oranza, 26, attacked early on then his fellow Navymen, led by national champion Jan Paul Morales, followed suit as they led the local charge in the 157.9-kilometer journey that started in Cabanatuan City, Nueva Ecija and ended infront of the Mercury Drug branch before an appreciative Novo Vizcayanon crowd here.
Oranza crossed the finish line in three hours, 48 minutes and 34 seconds, throwing his right arm upwards in jubilation before looking back at the 15-man chase group that included all of his four fellow Navymen with a big smile.
With the impressive victory in the annual bikathon co-presented by Air21, Cignal and Cargohaus Inc., Oranza native became just the fourth Filipino lap winner in the only UCI-sanctioned road race in the country after veteran riders Oscar Rendole, Arnel Quirimit and 7-Eleven Cliqq RoadBike PH star Mark Galedo, the 2014 LtDF champion.
Oranza admitted that his familiarity of the challenging route, made tougher by Category 4 and 2 climbs in the dreaded Dalton Pass, which he and the Navymen negotiated with relative ease in the course of their unstoppable run to the Ronda Pilipinas crown last March proved to be the key.
“Malaking tulong na pamilyar kami sa rita kasi ma-survive lang namin ‘yung Dalton Pass, ‘yung daan papunta dito, rolling na,” said Oranza, who also topped the pair of KOM challenges in Sante Fe to seize the red polka dot jersey given to the best climber.
But the Villasis, Pangasinan native will wear the coveted yellow jersey given to the general classification leader for today’s Stage 3, the longest at 185.20 kms from Bambang, Nueva Vizcaya to Lingayen, Pangasinan.
Also gaining a fair share of the spotlight was Morales, 32, who earned the green jersey as the best sprinter after sweeping two intermediate sprint tests inside the first 60 kilometers and moved up from fourth to third spot in the individual GC for his six-second time bonus.
Galedo’s 7-Eleven teammate, Daniel Ven Carino took the white jersey as the best young rider after he finished with the chase pack, more than 11 minutes ahead of his Japan-based Interpro Stradalli counterparts Kouki Shinoda and Kouki Mitsuda.
A pair of Navymen in climbing specialist Junrey Navarra and El Joshua Cariño also finished inside the Top 10 at sixth and seventh spots, respectively, while grizzled Bike Xtreme Philippines rider Cris Joven checked in at eighth overall during the mass finish.