Morales back on the Ronda throne
By Joey Villar (The Philippine Star)
ILOILO CITY , Philippines – Jan Paul Morales of Navy-Standard Insurance ruled the Stage 14 criterium race at the Iloilo Busines Park yesterday and made it the icing on the cake in his back-to-back title reign in the LBC Ronda Pilipinas.
Never leaving anything to chance, the 31-year-old topped the 50-km lap in an hour, five minutes and eight seconds, fending off a huge chase pack headed by Kinetix Lab-Army’s Cris Joven and Bike Xtreme’s Jaybop Pagnanawon who both clocked 1:05:26.
It was a win that underscored Morales’ utter domination of the LBC Ronda Pilipinas 2017 that covered 1,782.6 kilometers of roads starting in Vigan, Ilocos Sur last month and ending here where the champ finished with an aggregate time of 44:55:35 for a massive 13:45-minute victory over second placer Rudy Roque of Navy (45:09:20).
As he approached the finish, Morales took the black and white checkered flag and raised it with his right hand in triumph to the delight of a decent-sized crowd.
Morales became the first ever back-to-back winner of this annual race and he joined Santy Barnaceha in an elite group of two-title champions.
Barnachea topped Ronda’s inaugural edition six years back and won it again three years later. The other Ronda titlists were Irish Valenzuela (2012), Mark Galedo (2013) and Reimon Lapaza (2014).
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All in all, Morales snared a total of six stage triumphs after he ruled the Stage Two criterium in Vigan, Ilocos Sur, the Angeles-Subic Stage Three, the Pili-Daet Stage Seven and the Stage Nine criterium in Sta. Rosa, Laguna.
He also merged as the sprint and king of the mountain winner.
For his dominating performance, Morales earned P1,228,500 including the P1 million top purse.
It was apart from his share from the P50,000 purse his untouchable Navy squad took for topping the overall team race with an aggregate time of 176:46:09, besting No. 2 Kinetix Lab-Army’s 177:36:36 and No. 3 Go for Gold’s 177:46:07.
Morales dedicated his feat to his wife Leni, six-year-old daughter Janel and two-year-old son Jan Paul, Jr.
Morales believed he was lucky.
“We have this superstition in the family that a pregnant wife brings luck to the family and I guess I was lucky because I didn’t really encounter major problems,” said Morales, whose wife is two months pregnant.
Roque, 25, for his part, ended up second overall in the individual race with a time of 45:09:20 while Army’s Cris Joven finished third in 45:12:16.
Rounding up the top 10 were Go for Gold’s Bryant Sepnio (45:23:37), RC Cola-NCR’s Leonel Dimaano (45:23:51), Navy’s Ronald Lomotos (45:24:41), Daniel Ven Carino (45:27:35) and skipper Lloy Lucien Reynante (45:28:33), and Army’s Reynaldo Navarro (45:31:11) and Ronnilam Quita (45:32:25).
The 38-year-old Reynante and his Navy teammate 37-year-old Joel Calderon announced their retirement at the end of the event.
“I’m planning to coach after this,” said Reynante, a three-time Tour runner-up and top 10 finisher in countless others.
“I’ll just tend my farmlands and really leave cycling for good,” said Calderon, the 2009 Tour King and runner-up to Barnachea in Ronda six years back.