ECHAGUE, Isabela — Jan Paul Morales of Excellent Noodles topped the Stage Eight of the 11th LBC Ronda Pilipinas Friday but failed to gain much ground as overall leader Ronald Oranza of Navy Standard Insurance stuck to him like a leech.
Morales outkicked Oranza in the last few meters to cross the finish line first that saw them negotiate the 174.4-kilometer race that started in Baler, Aurora and ended in front of the municipal hall, in four hours, 41 minutes and 31 seconds.
Third placer Marcelo Felipe of Team Nueva Ecija was given the same clocking as Morales and Oranza.
The result of the race further convinced the experts that the battle for the coveted crown will now be decided in the last two laps.
Barring any catastrophic incident, the 36-year-old Morales and Oranza will remain as the main characters in the exciting chase for the P1 million top prize.
Morales’ only incentive for ruling the lap was slicing four seconds off the 29-year-old Oranza’s 42-second lead.
Oranza has a total time of 27:59:47 while Morales 28:00:25.
And it now boils down on who between Oranza and Morales could muster enough strength when they go through the feared mountain passes of Baguio via its backdoor from Bayombong, Nueva Vizcaya for the Stage Nine.
The 10th and last stage is a 3.1km criterium that starts and ends at the Burnham Park in a lap that would pass through the busy Session Road for the first time in the history of Ronda tomorrow.
A distant third was Jonel Carcueva of Go for Gold with 28:02:55, while Ronald Lomotos of Navy Standard Insurance and Felipe were at fourth and fifth at 28:08:54 and 28:09:36, respectively.
Rounding out the top 10 were Navy Standard Insurance’s El Joshua Carino (28:11:00) and Jeremy Lizardo (28:11:11), Excellent Noodles’ Ryan Tugawin (28:13:29), Navy Standard Insurance’s John Mark Camingao (28:15:20) and Go for Gold’s Jericho Jay Lucero (28:20:13).
Navy Standard Insurance has also kept its firm grip of the overall team lead at 81:22:24 followed by Excellent Noodles at 81:36:18 and Go for Gold at 82:00:36.
This annual event stakes a P3.5 million cash 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.