NAGA CITY — Jerry Aquino, Jr. of Scratch It came through with a race of his life as he topped Stage Three and snatched the overall lead from Mark Julius Bordeos of Bicycology-Army in the LBC Ronda Pilipinas 10th anniversary race that started in Legazpi and ended at the Panganiban Drive here on Tuesday.
Aquino, 27, edged Go for Gold skipper Ronnel Hualda and Bicycology-Army’s Dominic Perez in a mass finish as all clocked two hours, 47 minutes and 12 seconds to achieve many firsts: a breakthrough lap victory and his first ever taste of the overall lead.
“It was always my dream to wear the leader’s jersey so it was really a dream come true,” said Aquino, whose father Jerry Sr. was a veteran of the fabled Marlboro Tour in Filipino.
Aquino will wear the LBC red jersey in Wednesday’s grueling 206-kilometer Stage Four, the longest lap in this 10-stage race presented by LBC and backed by the MVP Sports Foundation, which starts in Daet, Camarines Norte and ends in Lucena.
The Makati City native gained a 10-second time bonus for his winning feat to dislodge Bordeos, the Sorsogon Stage One winner, from the top with a total time of 9:43:39 while the latter slid to second with 9:43:46 in this 10-stage race staking P1 million to the individual champion.
Aquino, however, benefitted from the heated battle being waged by fierce rivals 7Eleven Cliqq-Air21 by Roadbike Philippines and Standard Insurance-Navy, two of the country’s top teams.
“We just watched them (7Eleven and Standard). It was really intense,” said Aquino.
So far though, 7Eleven has been outdoing Standard as it has not only sent five riders in the top 10 but also clung to the general team lead like a leech in this event backed by Versa, 8A Performance, Print2Go, Petron, Green Planet, Bike Xtreme, Standard Insurance, Spyder, CCN, Lightwater, Prolite, Guerciotti, Black Mamba, Boy Kanin, Vitamin Boost, NLEX-SCTEX, Maynilad, 3Q Sports Event Management Inc., LBC Foundation and PhilCycling.
Rustom Lim (9:43:52), Mark Galedo (9:43:59), Aidan James Mendoza (9:44:05), Marcelo Felipe (9:44:08) and Mervin Corpuz (9:44:08) held their spots from fourth to eighth spots, respectively.
Standard’s George Oconer, for his part, kept his stranglehold of third place with 9:43:52 but he was the only rider from his team up there as teammates and former champions Jan Paul Morales and Ronald Oranza languished at 13th (9:45:02) and 18th (9:45:17), respectively.
Rounding up the top 10 were Alvin Benosa of Celeste Cycles Phl Dev Pro Team (9:44:09) and Jester Neli Mendoza of Bicycology (9:44:13).
The Galedo-skippered squad stayed at the team held with 36:08:59 ahead of Standard (36:11:30) and Bicycology (36:11:39).
Standard’s Junrey Navarra, Celeste’s Roel Quitoy and Go for Gold’s Ronnilan Quita conquered the perilous mountains of Sugnay, Camarines Sur facing Misibis Bay but couldn’t sustain their lead as the Aquino-led peloton managed to catch up with the troika in the final 20-km. stretch.