DEFENDING champion Jan Paul Morales of Navy-Standard Insurance and Cris Joven of Kinetix Lab-Army finished 1-2 in Stage Seven to gain precious seconds in their campaign for the overall title halfway through the LBC Ronda Pilipinas on Thursday.
Morales and Joven took the tip of a six-cyclist sprint finish of the 227-kilometer stage that started in Pili, Camarines Sur and ended in Daet, Camarines Norte.
Go for Gold’s Elmer Navarro was third, followed by Ilocos Sur’s Ryan Serapio, Army’s Ronnilan Quita, RC Cola-NCR’s Leonel Dimaano, red-jersey wearer Rudy Roque of Navy and Ilocos Sur’s Jemico Brioso.
The 31-year-old Morales was seen massaging his leg before the final sprint.
“I was cramping, but I endured it,” Morales said.
While Morales battled cramps, Joven, 30, complained of chest pains and dizziness before flag-off.
“I felt something in my heart and I thought I was losing consciousness. Good thing I shouted several times, that helped me stay in the race,” said Joven, who saw the race doctor immediately after the race.
Morales moved from fourth to third with an aggregate time of 24:24:42, while Joven leapt from No. 5 to No. 4 with a total clocking of 24:25:07.
Roque kept his grip of the general classification with a time of 24:21:52, less than two-and-a-half minutes ahead of Navy teammate Ronald Lomotos.
Lomotos, who was stuck in the peloton, was only 29 seconds ahead of Morales and less than a minute over Joven when the race resumes today with the 183-km Daet-Unisan Stage Eight.
“It’s another long race, we’ll see,” Morales said.
“I hope to gain some more time and close in on them,” said the Iriga City native Joven, referring to Roque, Lomotos and Morales.
Navyman Daniel Ven Cariño fizzled out in the ascent in Ragay, Camarines Sur, and was stranded in the peloton to slide from No. 3 to No. 10 with 24:33:17.
Go for Gold made its presence felt when four of its riders pierced the top 10—Elmer Navarro at No. 5, Ismael Gropse Jr. at No. 7, Jonel Carcueva at No. 8 and Bryant Sepnio at No. Rounding up the top 10 was Dimaano at No. 6.