GEORGE Oconer, Jr. of the PhilCycling team topped the 60-kilometer Stage One on Sunday to jumpstart his title campaign in the Ronda Pilipinas 2015 at the Paseo Greenfield City in Sta. Rosa, Laguna.
Oconer, 23, son of former Olympian Norberto, outsprinted 2011 inaugural champion Santy Barnachea and Rudy Roque of Navy-Standard Insurance, Army's Cris Joven and teammate Rustom Lim to rule the opening stage in one hour, 13 minutes and 15 seconds.
It was Oconer's first stage triumph since winning the Tuguegarao-Solana stage in the third edition two years ago.
For his feat, Oconer pocketed P15,000, gained a precious 10-second bonus and will wear the red jersey uring the 120.5-km Calamba-Atimonan Stage Two.
The Ronda riders paid tribute to the 44 policemen killed in Mamasapano, Maguindanao by sticking "Fallen 44" stickers on their jerseys.
Roque ended up second with Joven third, logging the same time as Oconer, Lim and Barnachea.
Rounding out the stage's top 10 were Navy's Jan Paul Morales, Cebu-VMobile's Rey Nelson Martin Army's Marvin Tapic, 7-Eleven's RJ Perlta and Spanish Edgar Nieto, who all posted identical clockings of 1:15.39.
After the time bonuses were applied, Oconer leads the way with a total time of 1:13.05 followed by Joven (1:13.07) and Roque (1:13.09).
A 171.1-km Stage Three is set on Monday starting at the Quezon Provincial Capitol in Lucena and end at the Rizal Provincial Capitol.
From Lucena, Stage Three will pass Pagbilao, Tayabas and Lucban in Quezon, Luisiana, Cavinti, Lumban, Paete, Siniloan, Tanay, Morong and Teresa and then eventually Antipolo in Rizal in the event presented by LBC and supported by major sponsors Manny V. Pangilinan Sports Foundation, Petron and Mitsubishi, minor sponors Cannondale, Standard Insurance, Tech1 Corp., Maynilad, NLEX and NLEX Cycling and sanctioned by PhilCycling with TV5 and Sports Radio as media partners.