Lap winner Junrey Navara of Navy-Standard Insurance negotiates a stretch of rough road along Agoncilio in Batangas during Stage 11 of Ronda Pilipinas. Ernie Peñaredondo

Ronda crown in the bag for Ronald Oranza
Joey Villar (The Philippine Star) - March 18, 2018 - 12:00am

CALACA, Batangas, Philippines — Ronald Oranza of Navy-Standard Insurance blazed past the elite field of veteran and former champions – and the great pretenders to the throne – with a safe second-place finish behind Stage 11 winner and teammate Junrey Navara yesterday to virtually bag the crown and turn today’s final stage into his coronation ride in the Ronda Pilipinas 2018 presented by LBC.

The 25-year-old Oranza clocked two hours, 18 minutes, 15 seconds to finish second in the 92.72-kilometer stage behind Navara, who timed 2:28:13 to claim his second straight lap victory after conquering the 147.8km Tagaytay-Calaca Stage 10 the day before.

It was the Villasis, Pangasinan native’s eighth podium finish highlighted with stage victories in the Vigan Stage One criterium, Vigan-Pagudpud Stage Two and the Tarlac Stage Seven Individual Time Trial.

All in all, Oranza had an aggregate clocking of 32:42:13, or more than 12 minutes ahead of his closest pursuer and fellow Navyman Jan Paul Morales (32:54:49),  reducing today’s Stage 12 around Filinvest, Alabang to his victory ride.

A handsome prize of P1 million and another P300,000 worth of Boy Kanin franchise await the champion at the end of the 12-leg LBC Ronda.

“Yes, I can celebrate now,” said Oranza, whose best finish before this year was second to Morales two years ago and third to 2013 winner Irish Valenzuela of CCN Superteam in 2013, in Filipino.

Navara, a pocket-size, 47-kilo wonder, stole some of the spotlight as he topped the two stages here to officially crown himself the King of the Mountains for the fourth time.

It also catapulted Navara from No. 5 to No. 3 overall, supplanting Go for Gold’s George Oconer and another Navy bet John Mark Camingao with a total time of 33:04:37.

“Climbing is really my specialty because it usually makes or breaks a cyclist’s bid,” said Navara, a 26-year-old native of General Santos who trains in the mountain ranges of Tupi, South Cotabato.

Morales, the champion of the last two editions who finished third in the stage, was happy to concede the crown to a teammate.

“I’m happy for Ronald (Oranza), he deserves this because he really trained and worked hard,” said the 32-year-old Calumpang, Marikina-based Morales, who is the runaway winner of the Petron sprint king plum.

Oconer skidded to No. 4 (33:10:00) and Camingao to No. 5 (33:10:53).

Rounding up the top 10 were Army-Bicycology’s Cris Joven (33:13:06), Go for Gold’s Boots Ryan Cayubit (33:15:35), Navy’s El Joshua Carino (33:17:05), Go for Gold Developmental team’s Jay Lampawog (33:19:48) and Navy’s Rudy Roque (33:21:37).

The flying Navymen have also wrapped up the team crown in 129:20:35 ahead of Army-Bicycology (131:03:19) and Go for Gold Developmental team (131:06:26).

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