Oconer crowned as Ronda champ today

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    VICTORIOUS: Kenneth Solis raises his hand in triumph as he rules Stage 9 of the Ronda race.
    VICTORIOUS: Kenneth Solis raises his hand in triumph as he rules Stage 9 of the Ronda race.

    VIGAN. — Kenneth Solis of Team Tarlac claimed his first lap victory while 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 Tuesday.

    Coming from behind, Solis, 26, edged Christopher Garado of South Luzon-Batangas and Mar Sudario of Bike Xtreme to top the 170.6km Stage 9 that started in Pugo, La Union and ended in front of the provincial capitol here for his most significant performance since joining the race 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 also in the first group that clocked four hours, 15 minutes and 27 seconds.

    Solis dedicated his triumph to one-month old daughter Brianna Kate, saying: “This is special to me and I’m dedicating it to my baby.”

    It was the second lap triumph for Team Tarlac after Ryan Tugawin reigned supreme in Stage 2 Legazpi City.

    Garado also considered his feat exceptional since his team almost did not make the race after the money intended for their campaign was used to help victims of the Taal eruption.

    The day, however, belonged to Oconer, 28, who kept his iron grip on the individual general classification lead with a total 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, will be Oconer’s coronation lap as he officially ends a long search for the title.

    Oconer and the rest of the Navymen, who have also virtually sealed the overall team crown, dedicated their efforts 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.