ANTIPOLO CITY – Defending champion Reimon Lapaza formally bowed out of the race in Ronda Pilipinas 2015 presented by LBC on the day ageless Santy Barnachea seized the overall lead.
Barnachea of Navy-Standard Insurance and inaugural Ronda winner, finished second behind Baler Ravina of 7-Eleven in Monday’s stage three of the bikefest that started in Lucena City and ended at the Provincial Capitol here.
One of the most seasoned riders heat at 38-years-old, Barnachea finished with the same clocking as Ravina at four hours, 35 minutes and 46 seconds that catapulted him to first place.
But it was Lapaza’s sudden withdrawal which proved to be the biggest surprise of the day as last year’s champion bowed out due to severe exhaustion.
Lapaza left the race while approaching Luisiana, Laguna, leaving the rest of the field to fight it out for the top purse of P1 million and the distinction as the year's best rider.
Barnachea emerged alone on top after supplanting PSC-PhilCycling's George Oconer, Jr. for the lead.
The former champion has an aggregate time of 9:37:00 or a whopping eight-minute lead over Oconer, who wore the symbolic LBC read jersey earlier.
Barnachea, seeking to become the first cyclists to win the race considered as the biggest and richest in Asia, was quick to say he was just an accidental leader at the end of the 171.1-kilometer stage.
“I wasn't expecting to be the leader after the race,” said Barnachea, a proud native of Umingan, Pangasinan, in Filipino.
“But when I got the chance, I took it,” he added.
Ravina, one of the best mountain-climbers in the country and Le Tour champion three years ago, took his first ever stage triumph in the annual race that won him P30,000.
It also catapulted the Asingan, Pangasinan native from No. 24 the day before to No. 12 overall with a total time of 9:53:04.
But he will need to win more stages to catch up on Barnachea, who is a little over 16 minutes ahead of him.
“One step at a time,” he said.
The 23-year-old Oconer, winner of the 60-km Stage One criterium race at Paseo Greenfield City, was stranded in the peloton and could do nothing to keep up with Barnachea as he fell to second place with a time of 9:45:00.
Armyman Cris Joven remained at No. 3 (9:45:29), while another Navyman in Ronald Oranza, who reigned supreme in the 120.5-km Calamba-Atimonan Stage Two the day before, was at No. 4 (9:45:41).
Rounding up the top 10 were Navy's Jan Paul Morales (9:47:03), Navy's Jhon Mark Camingao (9:49.22), Cebu-VMobile's Rey Nelson Martin (9:52.09), Navy's Lloyd Lucien Reynante (9:52.12), Army's Irish Valenzuela (9:52.22) and Cebu-VMobile's Elmer Navarro (9:52.22).
Leading the category races were Morales (Blue Petron sprint), Ravina (Polka dot Mitsunishi KOM), Daniel Ven Carino (17-18 years old), and Camingao (White Standard insurance U-23).
The race is 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, NLEX and NLEX Cycling and sanctioned by PhilCycling under Cavite Congressman Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino with TV5 and Sports Radio as media partners.