ECHAGUE, Isabela: Ronald Oranza of Navy Standard Insurance stuck to Jan Paul Morales of Excellent Noodles like a leech in Stage Eight to keep a firm grip of the solo overall lead in the 11th LBC Ronda Pilipinas yesterday.
Morales, the 2016 and 2017 Ronda king, ruled the 174.4-kilometer Stage Eight that started in Baler, Aurora, threaded through the mountains of Quirino and ended in front of the municipal hall here in 4 hours, 41 minutes and 31 seconds.
But Oranza, the 2018 winner, was there with Morales all along and checked in at second with eventual third-placer Marcelo Felipe of Team Nueva Ecija, all with the same clocking in the race now reduced to a two-sided affair going into the last two stages.
The 36-year-old former Navy skipper, however, managed to slice four seconds off the 29-year-old Oranza’s 42-second lead after the Tarlac-Baler Stage Seven in the individual general classification race the day before.
And it now boils down to who between Oranza and Morales could muster enough strength when the race enters its final two stages including the feared mountain passes of Baguio via its backdoor from Bayombong, Nueva Vizcaya.
The 10th and last stage is a 3.1km criterium that starts and ends at the Burnham Park in a lap that would pass through Session Road for the first time in the history of Ronda tomorrow.
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