runner-up George Oconer, Jr. showed his intent to finally win it all this year as he topped the LBC Ronda Pilipinas 2017 edition qualifying race that started at the Lighthouse and ended at the Forest View Park in Subic Bay, Zambales yesterday.
The 24-year-old Oconer, now representing a Ronnel Hualda-skippered Scratch It/Go for Go Gold, clocked three hours and 23.49 minutes to reign supreme in the 101-kilometer race, beating last year’s winner Jan Paul Morales of Navy-Standard Insurance, who checked in at second in 3:27:03.
“Even though we’re already qualified, we used this as part of our training because I’m really hoping to win it this year,” said Oconer, whose finished as high as second last year and as low as 13th four years ago, in Filipino.
Oconer was part of the six-man pack that broke away from the pack midway in the race in Morong, Bataan but only broke loose in the final 11-km stretch to rule the stage, which happened to be the third and last lap of the LBC Giro de Pilipinas.
Morales ended up at No. 2 while Boots Ryan Cayubit, Ronald Lomotos, Lloyd Lucien Reynante and Ronnel Hualda wound up No. 3 to No. 6, respectively.
Army also made its presence felt after its seven riders led by Marvin Tapic and Cris Joven made the cut to the main race, a 15-stage event scheduled to start in Feb. 4 in Ilocos Sur and on March 4 in Iloilo City.
Lord Anthony del Rosario, Alvin Benosa, Mark Julius Bordeos, Rey Navarro and Alfie Catalan were the other Armymen who also advanced to the LBC-bankrolled Ronda main event.
Jonel Carcueva, Oconer’s teammate, also secured a berth as well as Myrson Paul Basto and Jaime Aquino of SMCC, Carlvin Acierto of FRC, Jemico Brosio of Team Ilocos, Nilo Valdez of G Star, Jervin Torres of Team Salic, Genesis Antonio of the Dasma Cycling Club, John Patrick Alcantara of Aboitiz Power, Arjay Kaul of CATBA, Francisco Arenas of MDCCI, Rodney Fernando of Munoz Bikers and Orlie Villanueva of Cabanatuan Club.
Two-time champion Santy Barnachea was scheduled to join but pulled out in the last minute and decided to join the executive race instead due to personal reasons.
The qualifiers here will join the 70 who already made it by virtue of their participation in the last edition early this year for a chance to win the top purse worth a whopping P1 million courtesy of presentor LBC and its major sponsors Mitsubishi, Petron, ASG Group, Dans360 and Donen with sanctions from PhlCycling under its president Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino, set Feb. 4 to March 4 next year.
Another 30 spots will be up for grabs in the final qualifier scheduled on Dec. 4 in Bacolod City where they will join the 72 riders who have already automatically qualified by virtue of joining last year’s race.
Among them are Mindanao wonder boy Ranlen Maglantay, George Oconer, Ronnel Hualda, Julius Mark Bonzo, Rustom Lim, and powerhouse Navy mainstays Lloyd Lucien Reynante, Rudy Roque, Ronald Oranza, Joel Calderon and Jan Paul Morales.
Ronda has recently added three stages, one in Subic, another from Lucena to Naga and the third in Bacolod.
LBC Ronda will officially start on Feb. 4 with Ilocos Sur-Ilocos Norte Stage One and followed by the Ilocos Sur Stage Two criterium the next day.
Interested participants may visit Ronda’s official Facebook page.