Hail the new champ!

    BIG WINNER: George Oconer takes his victory lap.
    BIG WINNER: George Oconer takes his victory lap.

    VIGAN. — George Oconer crowned himself the LBC Ronda Pilipinas king while his squad Standard-Insurance repeated as team champion as the 10th anniversary race drew to a close in front of the provincial capitol here Wednesday.

    Oconer, 28, stayed at the back end of the peloton that checked in first in the Stage 10 criterium that was ruled by teammate Jan Paul Morales in 51 minutes and 20 seconds to claim his first title.

    He raised his arms in victory, rode his ceremonial victory lap, and was met by a wild applause from the appreciative crowd at the finish where he got a hug and congratulatory message from Ronda chairman Moe Chulani and Standard Insurance Group chairman Ernesto “Judes” Echauz.

    Oconer thanked God, Echauz, his teammates and coaches who cradled him almost all race long, the organizers, and his family, including father Norberto, a two-time Olympian.

    After 10 stages and 11 days covering a total of 14 provinces starting in Sorsogon, Oconer had a total time of 32:42:12 over 68 survivors out of the 88 original starters.

    It was a performance to remember for Oconer; aside from pocketing the top purse of P1 million and taking home a beautifully crafted trophy, he was also hailed as the best Filipino cyclist today.

    “My first race was in Ronda in 2011, that is why finally winning it here is a special moment for me,” said Oconer.

    Oconer’s triumph underscored Standard’s Ronda domination as it also sent five more of its riders—Ronald Oranza, Ronald Lomotos, John Mark Camingao, Junrey Navarra and El Joshua Carino—in the top 10 while running away with the team crown.

    Rounding up the top 10 in the individual race were Go for Gold’s Jonel Carcueva, Daniel Ven Carino and Ismael Grospe, Jr., and Marvin Tapic of Bicycology-Army.

    Apart from that, Standard also registered five stage wins, three of which were scored by Morales, a two-time winner here who also secured the CCN Sprint plum in the race presented by LBC and backed by the Manny V. Pangilinan Sports Foundation.

    Navarra also emerged as the Versa King of the Mountain in the event supported by Palayan, Nueva Ecija, 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.

    It was the last race for Santy Barnachea, who won the inaugural edition in 2011 and 2015.

    “Yes, I’m retiring. I’m now focusing my time to family and maybe coaching,” said the 43-year-old Barnachea, who joined the final two years of the fabled Marlboro Tour in 1997 and 1998 before winning the Fedex Tour of Calabarzon in 2002 and the Padyak Pinoy in 2006.