Willing Navy ‘pawn’ tops 7th stage
DAET, CAMARINES NORTE— Jan Paul Morales made a big sacrifice Thursday for his Navy teammate in a bid to drain Army’s Cris Joven, who looked intent on making his move in the seventh stage.
Morales towed Joven to a 1-2 finish after a grueling 224-kilometer Ronda Pilipinas challenge that spanned four provinces and ended in this famous surfing destination.
“I may not be able to make it (win the title this year),” said the 31-year-old Morales of Philippine Navy-Standard Insurance after winning stage honors by two bike lengths.
“But I’m getting tired, too,” admitted Morales in Filipino.
He admitted being the designated pawn as he led a two-man breakaway (with Ronnilan Quita) in hilly Ragay, Camarines Sur, still more than 100 km away from the finish line.
“That’s my role, to tire out the chasers like Joven so Rudy (Roque) can relax with the main peloton,” said Morales.
But he also admitted it may soon backfire on him with still seven stages left in the race.
Roque, Morales’ teammate and current red jersey wearer, indeed kept his lead intact, two minutes, 21 seconds ahead of another Navy rider, Ronald Lomotos. Morales was third overall 2:50 behind.
But Joven, riding for Kinetix Lab-Philippine Army, managed to creep to fourth, just 3:15 behind Roque.
“From the start our goal is the championship. Whoever is fittest, we support him,” said Morales. “Right now Rudy is in top condition and they will have a hard time getting the red jersey from him.”
Roque finished the stage in the top 8, with the same time as Morales (6:09:04), Elmer Navarro of Go For Gold, Ryan Serapio of Team Ilocos Sur, Quita of Army, Leonel Dimaano RC Cola-NCR and Jemico Brioso of TIS.
And while Joven represented the biggest threat in the P1 million top individual honor, Go For Gold has already camped four riders inside the top 10 of the overall classification— Navarro (5:06 off the leader), Ismael Grospe Jr., (7:11), Jonel Carcueva (7:49) and Bryant Sepnio (9:37).
From here, the riders will take on a 187-km eighth stage to Unisan, Quezon.
Morales said their team will be mostly trying to defend the red jersey. “If and when we make an attack, we’ll make sure others can’t catch up.”
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