BAGUIO CITY— Ronald Lomotos of Navy Standard Insurance put on a performance to remember and topped the grueling Stage Nine Saturday to snatch the overall lead from teammate Ronald Oranza and possibly the 11th LBC Ronda Pilipinas title with a stage to go.
Lomotos, 26, conquered the feared mountains of Kayapa in Nueva Vizcaya and arrived by himself at the finish line in Burnham Park brimming with pride at the thought of winning the handsome top purse of P1 million.
For negotiating the 174.4-kilometer stage in six hours, five minutes and four seconds, Lomotos snatched the red LBC jersey from Oranza.
In what could be his greatest performance since starting racing in big time events, the pride of San Felipe in Zambales overhauled a 9-minute deficit after the Baler-Echague Stage Eight Friday to seize the lead with an aggregate time of 34:13:48, or 21 seconds ahead of Oranza.
Oranza, the 2018 Ronda champion, also did well in the race, finishing fourth overall in 6:14:22.
Still, he dropped to second despite his massive effort to stay on top for the third straight stage or since he ruled the Stage Six in Tagaytay Tuesday.
While anything can still happen between Lomotos and Oranza in today’s final 3.1km Stage 10 criterium, one thing is inevitable—a rider named Ronald will emerge as champion in this year’s edition of the annual cycling spectacle.
“I long dreamed of this and I thank the Lord he gave me this opportunity,” said Lomotos, who took up the sport when his father Nicholas died when he was still seven years old.
Lomotos was already shedding tears of joy after learning he already secured the leader’s jersey and possibly claim the top purse worth P1 million and the bragging rights as the new Ronda king.
“I took up cycling to help my mom (Zenaida), who was making ends meet as a caregiver,” he added.
Joshua Pascual and Joshua Mari Bonifacio of Excellent Noodles ended up second and third in the stage with identical times of 6:13:31 that catapulted them straight to the top 10 with the latter at No. 5 in 34:34:25 and the former at No. 8 in 34:38:58.
Excellent Noodles’ Jan Paul Morales, the overall leader in the early stages, succumbed in the ascents and slipped from No. 2 to No. 7 in 34:37:33 and kissed his title chances goodbye.
Two other Navymen—El Joshua Carino and Jeremy Lizardo—were at distant Nos. 3 and 4 at 34:32:42 and 34:42:53, respectively.
Rounding out the top 10 were Jonel Carcueva of Go for Gold at No. 6 at 34:36:29, Marcelo Felipe of Team Nueva Ecija at No. 9 at 34:41:37 and John Mark Camingao of Navy Standard Insurance at No. 10 34:51:28.
Like the two Ronalds, it would also be a victory ride for the Navy men, who have virtually clinched the team crown with a total time of 100:03:32 ahead of Excellent Noodles with 100:40:28 and Team Nueva Ecija with 102:56:30.
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.