NOT one to relax ahead of top-level competition, Ronald Oranza, already seeded into the national finals, suited up and pushed hard to rule Stage One of the Ronda Pilipinas Luzon qualifying leg on Monday in Tarlac.
Oranza is part of the national team that participated in the Asian Cycling Championship in Thailand last week and seeded to the Ronda finals along with last year's winner Reimon Lapaza of Butuan City and national teammates including Mark Galedo.
But Oranza said he is using this race as part of his preparation in the finals, hoping to finally wind up on top after a few failed tries.
"Hopefully, I could do it this year," said Oranza, who pocketed P25,000.
Oranza finished the the 138.9-kilometer stage that started at the Provincial capitol and ended at Monasterio de Tarlac in three hours, 32 minutes and one second.
Team Cebu's Elmer Navarro finished 16 seconds behind for second place, while Navyman Jan Paul Morales, silver medallist in the scratch race of the 2015 Asian Cycling Championships, took the final place on the podium at 3:32.17.
Ronda champion Santy Barnachea and John Mark Camingao were fourth and fifth, followed by national team mainstay George Oconer Jr., Nelson Martin, Leonel Biocarles, Daniel Asto and 7-Eleven's Mark Julius Bordeus, who is coming off a top 10 finish in the ACC.
Jay Lampawog, a 17-year-old native of Villasis, Pangasinan like Oranza, shone the brightest in the junior race for 17-18 years old with a clocking of 2:34.00, besting Jayson Gupit (2:34.50) and Joshua Gile (2:35.20).
Camingao leads the under-23 division ahead of Biocarles and Bordeus.
The race resumes on Tuesday with a 102.5-km stage in Antipolo City in the event presented by LBC and supported by major sponsors the Manny V. Pangilinan Sports Foundation, Petron and Mitsubishi and minor sponors Cannondale, Standard Insurance, Tech1 Corp., Maynilad and NLEX and sanctioned by PhilCycling with TV5 and Sports Radio as media partners.