VIGAN, ILOCOS SUR — Kenneth Solis of Team Tarlac claimed his very first lap victory even as George Oconer of Standard Insurance-Navy stayed firm and unflappable at the helm in the ninth and penultimate stage of the LBC Ronda Pilipinas 10th anniversary race on Tuesday.
Mr. Solis, 26, came from behind and edged Christopher Garado of South Luzon-Batangas and Mar Sudario of Bike Xtreme to top the 170.6-km Stage Nine that started in Pugo, La Union, and ended in front of the provincial capitol here for his most significant performance since joining here four years ago.
Bryant Sepnio of Celeste Cycles, Mervin Corpuz of 7Eleven Cliqq-Air21 by Roadbike Philippines and two-time champion Santy Barnachea of Scratch It were part in that first group that clocked four hours, 15 minutes and 27 seconds.
The Army man then dedicated his triumph to one-month-old daughter Brianna Kate.
“This is special to me and I’m dedicating it to my baby,” said an ecstatic Mr. Solis in Filipino.
It was the second lap triumph for Team Tarlac after Ryan Tugawin reigned supreme in Stage Two in Legazpi City.
Mr. Garado, despite finishing only second, likewise considered his feat exceptional since his team almost did not make the race after the fund intended for their campaign were used to help victims of the Taal eruption.
The day, however, belonged to the 28-year-old Oconer, who kept his iron grip on the individual general classification lead with an aggregate clocking of 31:50:52 ahead of teammates Ronald Oranza (31:52:07), Ronald Lomotos (31:52:10), John Mark Camingao (31:52:45), Junrey Navarra (31:53:09) and El Joshua Carino (31:54:43).
Rounding up the top 10 were the Go for Gold troika of Jonel Carcueva (31:56:16), Daniel Ven Carino (31:56:38) and Ismael Grospe, Jr. (31:56:40), and Bicycology-Army’s Marvin Tapic (31:59:38).
The final stage — a criterium — here will be Mr. Oconer’s coronation lap as he will finally end a long search for the title.
Mr. Oconer and the rest of the Navymen, who have also virtually sealed the overall team crown, dedicated their effort to Standard Insurance Group chairman Ernesto “Judes” Echauz.
“We are dedicating this to him (Echauz) because without his full support, we wouldn’t have achieved any of this,” said Oconer.