JAN Paul Morales of Navy-Standard Insurance looks to ride defensive after three straight wins as Ronda Pilipinas resumes on Friday with the Stage Four from Dagupan City to Baguio City.
The 30-year-old Morales has 45 points after topping the first three races of the Luzon leg, with Oconer and Lim, of LBC MVP Sports gaining 31 and 29 points, respectively.
"I will just try to race safe and stick with them," said Morales, who hails from Calumpang, Marikina.
Morales won Stage One in Paseo de Sta. Rosa, Stage Two in Tagaytay and Stage Three in Antipolo.
Stage Four is a 94.41-kilometer road race that will negotiate the back-breaking mountain pass of Kennon Road.
Morales knows he can't afford to make mistakes.
"Champions were made and broken in Baguio. If I could do well there, I'll have a chance," said Morales, who topped the Mindanao leg two months ago and wound up sixth in the Visayas last month.
Oconer’s best performance in Baguio was fifth four years ago and he hopes to do better this time.
"You can count on me not to give up," said the 24-year-old Oconer, who finished second to last year's champion Santy Barnachea.
LBC-MVPSF's Ronnilan Quita is also among the riders to watch, in eighth overall with 12 points.
Quita, 21, caught up with Morales and Oconer late in Stage Three but lost steam and ended up seventh.
"I will definitely go for it again," he said.
The fifth and final stage of the event organized by LBC Express, is sanctioned by PhilCycling and sponsored by Manny V. Pangilinan Sports Foundation, Petron and Versa Radio-Tech 1 Corp. with Maynilad and NLEX as minor sponsors is another another criterium also in Baguio on Saturday.