GEORGE Oconer continued to show impressive form as he topped the second and final qualifying race of the LBC Ronda Pilipinas 2017 edition that started in Bacolod City and ended in the mountains of Don Salvador Benedicto, Negros Occidental on Sunday.
The 24-year-old Oconer, which represented Go for Gold, overcame Cebu pride Jaybop Pagnanawon's serious challenge in topping the 117-kilometer stage in three hours, 39 minutes and 18.691 seconds.
Pagnanawon, son of 1986 Marlboro Tour champion Rolando, checked in with a time of 3:40:09.663 to end up second that ensured him of a slot in the main LBC Ronda race set from February 4 to March 4.
There, a P1 million prize awaits the champion courtesy of presentor LBC and its major sponsors Mitsubishi, Petron, ASG Group, Dans360 and Donen with sanctions from PhlCycling under its president Abraham "Bambol" Tolentino.
Oconer's Go for Gold team captain Ronnel Hualda wound up third in 3:41:25.098.
It was also Oconer who topped the first qualifying race in Subic Bay last month that underscored his seriousness to finally win it all in the next edition after several failed attempts.
"I'm just focused right now on preparing for the main event," said Oconer, who finished as high as second last year from 13th four years ago, in Filipino.
The 27-year-old Pagnanawon, for his part, said he is chasing a dream.
"My dream is to achieve what my father achieved, which is to win a tour," said Pagnanawon, who was accompanied by no less than his father during the race.
Another Pagnanawon, the younger Jhundie also made the cut after he finished fifth with a clocking of 3:43:04.477.
Rounding up the top 10 were Go for Gold's Elmer Navarro (3:42:54.930), Ismael Grospe, Jr. (3:43:04.622), LBC-MVP Foundation's Ronnilan Quita (3:50:11.981), Jigo Mendoza (3:50:12.912), James Paolo Ferfas (3:56:20.738) and Edwin Nacario (3:57:32.784).
The main race starts on Feb. 4 with two stages in Ilocos Sur and will pass by Angeles (Feb. 8), Subic (Feb. 9), Lucena, Quezon (Feb. 12), Pili, Camarines Norte (Feb. 16), Daet (Feb. 17), Paseo in Sta. Rosa, Laguna (Feb. 19), Tagaytay and Batangas (Feb. 20), Calamba and Antipolo (Feb. 21), Bacolod, Don Salvador and San Carlos (Feb. 28) before wrapping up with a pair of stages in Iloilo City (March 3 and 4).