YOUNG gun Ronald Oranza managed to keep his rivals in check and maintain his lead in the overall standings, while George Oconer seized the day’s top honor by ruling Stage 13 of the Ronda Pilipinas on Monday.
Oconer finished the 204.4-kilometer ride from Tuguegarao to Solano, Nueva Vizcaya in four hours, 26 minutes and 45 seconds.
The 20-year-old Oranza and his pursuers were bunched in a group that finished over 20 minutes behind Oconer, which means the red jersey holder remains three seconds clear of second-running Santy Barnachea of Navy Standard and 33 seconds ahead of LPGMA-American Vinyl's Irish Valenzuela.
The race takes another rest day on Tuesday, with Oranza atop the individual general classification with an aggregate time of 47:20.14, followed by Barnachea (47:20.17), Valenzuela (47:20.47) and Ronald Gorantes (47:21.25).
Oconer, the top young rider and third place overall in the 2011 Ronda, recorded his first stage victory in two years by edging Mindanao-Cycle Line Butuan's Junrey Navarra.
"Nakakuha din ng lap sa wakas, matagal-tagal din akong naghintay," said Oconer, whose last stage win came in the Batangas-Tagaytay stage of the Ronda's inaugural staging two years ago.
Oconer’s win helped Navy-Standard snatch the lead in the team classification from PLDT-Spyder with a total time of 138:46.19. PLDT-Spyder held a 138:46.31 clocking, while Roadbike Philippines was third at 138:51.49.
Navarra, a 20-year-old rookie from General Santos City, managed to keep up with the early break before being passed by Oconer in the final stretch.
"Okay lang, masaya na ako kasi ito na ang pinakamataas kong narating maski bago pa lang ako dito, pangarap ko kasi mag-podium talaga," said Navarra.
Hundred Islands-Pangasinan's Ferdinand Pablo, 25, took the last podium spot with a 4:47.32 clocking.
Oconer, son of Barcelona Olympian Norberto, dedicated his win to teammate Jan Paul Morales, who spent his 27th birthday in a hospital after crashing in a downhill slope 20 kilometers from the finish line.
"Inaalay ko din ito sa teammate kong si Jan Paul, nahulog kasi sya sa kanal dun sa palusong sa pangalawang bundok. Sana okay sya kasi naawa ako sa kanya dahil birthday pa naman nya ngayon," he added.
The final three stages will be held in the mountains beginning with Wednesday’s 133.5-km Bayombong to Baguio Stage 14.