Morales tames rain-hit seventh stageBy June Navarro
Philippine Daily Inquirer
NAGA CITY—They all set out under a heavy downpour described by Jan Paul Morales as the worst he had seen in the Tour.
By the end of the slippery route, the track specialist from the Philippine Navy came up with the best performance in the 86-rider field and clinched yesterday’s Stage 7 of the Ronda Pilipinas.
Morales, a double bronze medalist in last year’s Indonesia Southeast Asian Games, sped ahead from the pack in the final several hundred meters to rule the short 115-kilometer course from Legazpi City in two hours, 35 minutes and 49 seconds for his second lap victory in local cycling’s showpiece event.
March Aleonar of Philippine Army and Julius Bonzo of the Philippine team chased down the Navyman from Marikina City in a mass sprint finish but couldn’t keep up and settled for a podium effort behind Morales, the Stage 4 winner in Surigao City.
“As a member of the national team, I’m highly trained to do sprints,” said Morales, 26, who placed third in the 10-km scratch and 4,000-m team pursuit in the SEA Games.
“But I couldn’t get this stage without the help of my teammates,” added Morales, referring to defending champion Santy Barnachea, Lloyd Reynante and Dante Cagas.
Heavy rains whipped the mostly flat course for long stretches in Albay province on a day Baler Ravina retained the red jersey for the fifth straight stage.
Ravina, who wore Ronda’s color of leadership since Stage 3 in Butuan City, acted as gatekeeper of the lead pack throughout, receiving solid backup from Road Bike teammates Ericson Obosa and Jason Garillo in making sure that no contender would slip away unnoticed.
They let LPGMA-American Vinyl skipper Irish Valenzuela take the only king of the mountain challenge near Valenzuela’s hometown of Tabaco City but again sealed off the peloton right after the climb in Ligao City, some 37 km from the start.
When several sprinters, headed by Morales and Aleonar, burst out of the pack near the finish, Ravina and his teammates let them go since they weren’t considered contenders anyway.
Ravina maintained a 59-second advantage over One Tarlac’s Joseph Millanes and stayed 1:37 clear of Oscar Rindole of V-Mobile.
Stage Individual Classification: 1. Morales, Jan Paul (PNS) 2:35:49, 2. Aleonar, March (PAR) same time, 3. Bonzo, Julius (RPT) same time, 4. Aquino, Jerry (SLB) same time, 5. Oconer, George (RPT) same time,
Overall Individual Classification: 1. Ravina, Baler (RBP) 27:29:48, 2. Millanes, Joseph (OTL) 0:59, 3. Rindole, Oscar (VMB) 1:37, 4. Joven, Cris (AMV) 1:56, 5. Martin, Rey (VMB) 2:25.