Navy rider Jan Paul Morales seeks Luzon leg hat trick, double crown in Ronda Pilipinas
Jan Paul Morales is looking to duplicate his success in the Mindanao leg of the 2016 LBC Ronda Pilipinas last February. Snow Badua

ANTIPOLO CITY - Navy-Standard Insurance's Jan Paul Morales shoots for another victory and widen his lead even further in a bid to claim two of the three legs of the 2016 LBC Ronda Pilipinas.

Morales, who ruled the Mindanao leg last February, will be a marked man when Stage Three of the Luzon leg kicks off with a criterium race unfolding and ending at the Hinulugang Taktak on Wednesday.

Displaying superb conditioning and endurance, the 30-year-old Morales took Stage One in Paseo de Sta. Rosa in Laguna on Sunday and the Talisay-Tagaytay Stage Two individual time trial on Monday to grab the solo lead.

The pair of impressive feats gave Morales 30 general classification points - 15 each from topping a stage - and a full 10-point lead over closest rival Rustom Lim of LBC-MVP Sports Foundation, who was at No. 2 with 20 points. 

Last year's second placer George Oconer, another LBC-MVPSF cyclist who finished second in Stage One, is at No. 3 with 18 points and should also be a dangerous threat to Morales' bid for a second title since topping the Mindanao Leg.

And Morales is aware he will have to be on guard to pull off a race hat-trick.

"Buo na tiwala ko sa tsansa ko. Mas maayos ang kundisyon ko ngayon," said Morales, who was a little spent after a sixth-place finish in the Visayas leg last month.

"Nalaspag rin kasi ako sa Stage 3 ng Ronda sa Visayas last month. Sinolo ko kasi ang breakway nun, almost 80 kilometers yun, mag-isa lang ako. Di na ko naka-recover. Sayang," added the Calumpang, Marikina pride.

Meanwhile, Lim made good use of tuesday's break with a visit  to the Antipolo Church to pray for a safe race.

"I prayed for a good and safe race," said Lim, the 22-year-old Guimba, Nueva Ecija native who was third overall in the Visayas staging behind eventual winner Ronald Oranza and second placer Rudy Roque of Navy.

Ronda Pilipinas is santioned by Philcycling and sponsored by Manny V. Pangilinan Sports Foundation, Petron and Versa Radio-Tech 1 Corp. with Maynilad and NLEX as minor sponsors and Wheeltek Motors as coverage supporter.

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