Oranza tows Navymen to Le Tour Stage 2 win
BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya—Philippine Navy-Standard Insurance skipper Ronald Oranza and his in-form teammates took full advantage of their familiarity of the challenging Stage 2 route as they stamped their class in the 2018 Le Tour de Filipinas under a bright Monday sunshine.
Oranza, 26, attacked like a hungry cheetah in the mountainous part of Santa Fe popularly known as Dalton Pass while his fellow Navymen sustained the pressure in the homestretch as they stood at the forefront of the local charge in the 157.9-kilometer journey that started in Cabanatuan City, Nueva Ecija, and finished just entering the town proper here.
Oranza whopped it up as he crossed the finish line in three hours, 48 minutes and 34 seconds before he looked back at the 15-man chase group that included all of his four fellow Navymen with a big smile, savoring his breakthrough lap victory in the annual bikathon co-presented by Air21, Cignal and Cargohaus Inc.
The Villasis (Pangasinan) native became just the fourth Filipino stage winner in the only International Cycling Union-calendared road race in the country after veteran riders Oscar Rendole, Arnel Quirimit and 7-Eleven Cliqq RoadBike star Mark Galedo, the 2014 champion.
Oranza admitted that his familiarity of the tricky route, made tougher by Category 4 and 2 climbs in the dreaded Dalton Pass, proved decisive because he and his fellow Nayvmen negotiated the same course with relative ease during their unstoppable run to a domestic tour crown last March.
“Malaking tulong na pamilyar kami sa ruta kasi ma-survive lang namin ‘yung Dalton Pass, ‘yung daan papunta dito, rolling na,” said Oranza, who also topped the pair of KOM challenges to claim the red polka dot jersey given to the best climber.
But he will still wear the coveted yellow jersey given to the general classification leader for today’s Stage 3, the longest at 185.20 kms from Bambang, Nueva Vizcaya, to Lingayen, Pangasinan, in what could be another decisive lap.
Not to be outdone was Oranza’s teammate Jan Paul Morales, 32, who seized the green jersey as the best sprinter after sweeping two intermediate sprints inside the first 60 kilometers. He also moved up from fourth spot to third in the individual GC for his six-second time bonus.
Galedo’s 7-Eleven teammate, Daniel Ven Carino claimed the white jersey as the best young rider after he finished with the chase group, more than 11 minutes ahead of his Japan-based Interpro Stradalli counterparts Kouki Shinoda and Kouki Mitsuda.
A pair of Navymen, climbing specialist Junrey Navarra and El Joshua Cariño, also finished inside the Top 10 at sixth and seventh spots, respectively, while grizzled Bike Xtreme Philippines rider Cris Joven checked in at eighth overall.
Korean Jung Hajeon of Uijeongbu Cycling Team and Eritrean Metkel Eyob of Terengganu finished second and third overall respectively while Iranian Reza Hosseini of Pishgaman Cycling Team rounded up the top five finishers.
Meanwhile, chief commissaire Louise Jones lauded the organizers and members of the local government units of Nueva Ecija and Nueva Vizcaya who all did an excellent share in ensuring the smooth flow of the race column this time, unlike in Bulacan and Pampanga where the traffic gridlock proved hellish as it could be due to lack of coordination that led to the stoppage of the opening stage last Sunday.
“Yesterday was very much a safety issue, I feared for the riders’ lives. Today, everything was 300-percent better,” said Welsh Jones, a two-time Olympian before she became an International Commissaire.
“Everyone did their job properly. The organization looked after us pretty well and I’m pleased with the marshals and everyone who made the racing very safe,” added the first Chief Commissaire of the race also sanctioned by the PhilCycling.
It was the Navymen, however, who put on a dominant show of force as they set the tone early behind Morales before Oranza made his big move at the mountainous part of Santa Fe where he ormed a three-man breakaway that included 7-11 rider Nelson Martin.
However, Martin struggled to sustain the pace under the scorching heat in the town of Bambang and was eventually swallowed by their persistent chasers. But Oranza persevered and dug deep in his tank for one final push in the last three kilometers to complete his impressive lap victory.