CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY - Philippine Navy Standard Insurance rider Jan Paul Morales further tightened his grip on the overall leadership by ruling Stage 3 of the LBC Ronda Pilipinas Mindanao leg at the Pueblo de Oro grounds here.
Still nursing some bruises and cuts on his right shouder after figuring in a spill during Stage 2 on Sunday, the 31-year-old former national rider immediately made a move in the first lap in the one hour plus three laps ride around the 2.40-kilometer loop of the cirterium race.
Enjoying just a six-point lead over second-running Lloyd Lucien Reynante and nine points up on No.3 Ronald Oranza, Morales wisely kept an eye on the two in his best performance ever in the annual race.
"Sa wakas, nakakuha rin ng stage. Nagbantay rin kasi talaga ako eh," said Morales, who was part of the breakaway group since the first lap.
With his Navy teammates crowding him at the top, Morales bared the team met prior to Stage 3 of this race presented by LBC and LBC Express, sanctioned by PhilCycling and sponsored by MVP Sports Foundation, Petron and Versa Radio-Tech 1 Corp. with Maynilad and NLEX as minor sponsors.
"Nag-usap-usap rin kasi kami na maging maingat lalo nung isang araw, dalawa pa kami ni Oranza na nagkabungguan," said the Calumpang, Marikina pride.
Morales, however, admitted he expects to have his hands full when the race moves to the scenic Manolo Fortich in Bukidnon on Thursday for the dreaded 21-kilometer individual time trial.
"Medyo mahihirapan ako run, kasi solo-solo na ang byahe run, kailangan kong ibuhos ang lakas run, lalo't penultimate stage yun. Paahon pa yun," he said.
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With the win, Morales earned 10 points to add to his 29 while further increasing his lead over Reynante who is now 10 points adrift. Oranza is now 12 points down.
Meanwhile, Navy's Daniel Ven Carino and Rudy Roque finished second and third in 1:09:23.65 and 1:09:24.03 while Oranza checked in at fourth in 1:09:24.47.
Navy team captain Lloyd Lucien Reynante checked in at No. 5 in the stage in 1:09:24.67.