Jan Paul Morales all set to take on stacked field in quest for Ronda treble
Jan Paul Morales starts his three-peat bid in Ronda Pilipinas

VIGAN, Ilocos Sur – Jan Paul Morales of Navy-Standard Insurance seeks a historic third title as he battles a field headed by former champions Santy Barnachea of Team Franzia and Irish Valenzuela of CCN Superteam when the Ronda Pilipinas 2018 presented by LBC unfolds Saturday here.

The 32-year-old Morales, who reigned supreme in the last two years, has set his sights on a third crown that will put him in the pedestal as the most titled rider in the history of the country’s biggest cycling race.

“I’m not guaranteeing it but I will do my best to win the title again this year,” said Morales in Filipino.

It will not be easy, though, as Morales will be facing a tough field consisting of fellow former champions Barnachea, Valenzuela and George Oconer of Go for Gold.

The 42-year-old Barnachea, the inaugural champion who repeated in 2015, has returned after a two-year absence and should also go for a third crown while Valenzuela, the 2012 winner, is also back after skipping the last two editions.

Oconer, a perennial contender whose best finish was second in 2015, likewise will return after he didn’t see action to train for the Southeast Asian Games last year and should make a serious run for his very first title.

And Morales thinks Oconer will be the biggest thorn to his three-peat bid in this race presented by LBC and supported by MVP Sports Foundation, CCN, Petron, Versa.ph, 3Q Sports Event Management, Inc., Boy Kanin, Franzia, Standard Insurance, Bike Xtreme, SH+, Guerciotti, Prolite, Green Planet, Maynilad, NLEX Cycling, Lightwater, LBC Foundation and PhilCycling.

“Oconer,” said Morales when asked of his most dangerous challenger.

Also expected to challenge for the title are Navy-Standard’s Rudy Roque, who ended up second last year, and Ronald Oranza, Cris Joven of Army-Bicycology, the 2017 third placer, Bike Xtreme’s Jaybop Pagnanawon and Ronnel Hualda of Go for Gold Developmental team.

The 40-kilometer Stage One criterium will unfurl at 8 a.m. will go around cobblestone street of Calle Crisologo and will go around Quezon Avenue, A. Reyes and Delos Reyes streets.

Ronda will proceed with the 155.4km Vigan-Pagudpud Stage Two Sunday, the 223.5km Pagudpud-Tuguegarao Stage Three Monday and the 135.2km Tuguegarao-Isabela Stage Four Tuesday. 

The race will take a break on March 7 and will resume with the 179.4km Isabela-Nueva Ecija Stage Five on March 8, 111.8km Nueva Ecija-Tarlac Stage Six on March 9, 31.5km Individual Time Trial Stage Seven and 42.14km Team Time Trial Stage Eight both in Tarlac on March 10 and 11.

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The rest of the stages are the 207.2km Silang-Batangas-Tagaytay Stage Nine on March 15, 147.8km Tagaytay-Calaca Stage 10 on March 16, 92.72km Calaca-Calaca Stage 11 on March 17 and the 50km Filinvest Alabang criterium Stage 12 on March 18.

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