MANILA — Expect George Luis Oconer to go for his first LBC Ronda Pilipinas title when the 2017 edition unfolds in Vigan, Ilocos Sur on February 4.
Now part of the Go for Gold team, the 24-year-old showed his real intent by sweeping both the qualifying races in Subic last November and Bacolod City earlier this month. He's now one of the favorites to win the sixth edition of the country's biggest cycling race.
"I'm focused and determined on finally winning it (next) year because I feel I'm more mature now," said Oconer, who finished behind two-time LBC Ronda champion Santy Barnachea in the 2015 race.
Oconer, whose father Norberto is a former two-time Olympic cyclist, said he's happy with his current team, skippered by Ronnel Hualda and bannered by Boots Ryan Cayubit and Ronald Lomotos.
"I like my team because we have a combination of youth and experience," Oconer said.
Oconer is expected to face a tough field, particularly the Navy-Standard Insurance team that dominated the three-leg qualifiers this year.
The Lloyd Lucien Reynante-captained Navy squad reigned supreme in the Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao legs with Jan Paul Morales and Ronald Oranza sharing honors with the former winning two and the latter one.
But Oconer is just focused on one thing — victory.
"If I race intelligently, I will have a strong chance," said Oconer.
Other former champions of Ronda were Santy Barnachea (first and fifth editions), Mark Galedo (second), Irish Valenzuala (third) and Reimon Lapaza (fourth).
The main race starts on February 4 with two stages in Ilocos Sur and will pass by Angeles (February 8), Subic (February 9), Lucena, Quezon (February 12), Pili, Camarines Norte (February 14 and 16), Daet (February 17), Paseo in Sta. Rosa, Laguna (February 19), Tagaytay and Batangas (February 20), Calamba and Antipolo (February 21), Bacolod, Don Salvador and San Carlos (February 28) before wrapping up with a pair of stages in Iloilo City (March 3 and 4).
A top purse worth P1 million awaits the champion.
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