Morales virtual Ronda champ after time trial triumph
GUIMARAS ISLAND—Jan Paul Morales generated sufficient power for long stretches to put a virtual lock on the overall title of the LBC Ronda Pilipinas 2017.
The Navy-Standard Insurance ace only needs to protect his huge advantage over teammate Rudy Roque in the last two stages to seal the individual general classification plum and claim the P1-million champion’s prize.
Morales ruled Thursday’s individual time trial in one hour, five minutes and 42 seconds.
Navy’s Jay Lampawog placed second for the day, 3:31 slower than Morales, while Army’s Marvic Tapic wound up third, 3:37 back.
Morales attacked during the long climb late in the stage and reeled in three riders, including top rivals Roque and third overall Cris Joven of Army, on the rolling course of this picturesque island famous for its mangoes.
“It’s not yet over,” said Morales, looking to become the first back-to-back and two-time Ronda champion. “If I manage to stay in front after tomorrow’s (Friday) stage, then I can openly claim the title.”
Friday’s penultimate stage is a 209-km ride from Iloilo City to Antique and back with a long low-level climb in Hamtic town midway through the route.
“It’s a long stage,” said Morales, a 31-year-old track specialist from Calumpang, Marikina. “We need to work together to avoid a crash or mechanical problems.”
Barring any hitches, the final leg of the 14-stage bikathon on Saturday will practically be a victory ride for Morales, who leads Roque by 9:17.
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