GEORGE OCONER: DESTINED FOR GREATNESS

George Luis Oconer developed his interest in cycling through his dad, Norberto Oconer, the 1988 Seoul and 1992 Barcelona Olympian.

Wayback, the five-foot-six rider was inadequate and could not procure even a simple pair of cycling shoes. In one instance, his future mentor, Reinhard “Toto” Gorantes, managed to give him a pair of trainers. However, its size was too large for him (sized between 42 and 43).

As time went by, he obtained his first Chromoly bike, then a Vellum bike. Next, he participated in different grassroots cycling contests in their neighborhood. After winning some matches, the budding cyclist finally purchased an Exostar pair of sneakers that fit him in Quiapo, Manila.

Oconer (right) in 2009

In 2010, the aspiring Oconer attended and tried his luck at a national team junior trial in Tagaytay City. At the said trial, he placed second. Besides, the national squad conducted parallel trials in Subic. Ultimately, the top winners in Tagaytay and Subic trials were put to the final test in Calatagan, Batangas, through Individual Time Trial.

Fortunately, the buoyant teenage Oconer bested rivals and clinched the overall championship in the junior trial. Thereby, the national team selected Oconer and others to represent the country in local and international races.

His first international race in the national team was the Asian Cycling Championships, held in Indonesia in 2010. Even so, he performed mediocrely in that particular race.

The hopeful likewise raced in various 7-Eleven Road Bike challenge series of races, joining its U23 Category in the same year.

After competing in the amateur races for a year, the promising lad finally joined professional cycling in 2011 at the age of nineteen.


As a professional rider, he first joined Le Tour de Filipinas, a UCI-sanctioned stage race. At the race’s culmination, Oconer was a runner-up, second to Kelvin Mendoza. He was also the competition’s Best Young Rider. Further, he placed 20th overall in the individual general classification (GC).

Subsequently, he took part in LBC Ronda Pilipinas’ inaugural race, under the banner of PSC-Philcycling in 2011. His first lap win in his professional took place in Tagaytay City as he dominated LBC Ronda Pilipinas’ first edition stage 5. Fortuitously, he had held the Best Young Rider from stage one to five, heralding his domination in the tournament’s U23 category.

As the race drew to a close, the then 19-year old pedaller emerged as the Best Young Rider and Sprint conqueror and third overall in the GC.

Months before LBC Ronda Pilipinas 2012 kicked off, LBC meanwhile recruited its first eight-man team comprised of George Oconer, John Gerald Mendoza, Mark Julius Bonzo, Jemico Brioso, Kelvin Mendoza, Marvin Tapic, Elmer Navaro, and Jaybob Pagnanawon under head coach Chris Allison. Initially, they trained in Europe and raced in local races in the Netherlands, Belgium, to name a few.

According to George Luis Oconer, he has deemed LBC Ronda Pilipinas 2012 as his most inauspicious venture in LBC Ronda Pilipinas because of several lapses, mechanical problems, etc.

In 2013, he transferred to Philippine Navy Standard Insurance (PNSI). The PNSI youngster joined prominent and seasoned cyclists like Santy Barnachea, Reinhard Gorantes, Jan Paul Morales, Lloyd Lucien Reynante, Dante Cagas, Eboy Quinonez, and Daniel Asto. During LBC Ronda Pilipinas’ third edition, the 21-year-old youngster podiumed and pulled off a lap win on Tuguegarao to Solano Stage.

COURTESY: LBC RONDA PILIPINAS

As LBC Ronda Pilipinas diversified into an international race the following year, the Navy Squad restructured itself with a new set of riders comprised of George Oconer, Lloyd Reynante, Jan Paul Morales, Santy Barnachea, Joel Calderon, Rudy Roque under the supervision of 1991 Marlboro Tour Champion Bernie Llentada and Reinhard Gorantes.

FYI: The Philippine Navy Standard Insurance has been the tournament’s team champion since the PNSI team won the overall team general classification championship in LBC Ronda Pilipinas international 2014. However, their winning streak was only interrupted in LBC Ronda Pilipinas 2019 after Matrix Powertag Japan outpaced 7-Eleven and PNSI by 12 seconds and 56 seconds, respectively, snatching victory from the jaws of defeat.

At the culmination of LBC Ronda Pilipinas fourth edition, Oconer became third overall in All-Filipino. Simultaneously, Oconer seized the Best Young Rider and secured the second overall in Sprint. In general, the summer spectacle ranked him fourth in the individual GC.

COURTESY: LBC RONDA PILIPINAS

In the ensuing year, George Oconer parted ways with the PNSI and returned to his former team, PSC-Philcycling. The Philcycling seven-man team comprised Ronald Lomotos, Rustom Lim, Jerry Aquino, George Oconer, Junrey Navarra, Mark Julius Bonzo and Leo Enero.

At first, the feisty Oconer podiumed at the Filinvest criterium stage one race. Ultimately, after completing the eight-stage road cycling competition, which concluded in Baguio City, he brought off the second place, second to LBC Ronda Pilipinas 2015 overall titleholder, Santy Barnachea. Meanwhile, Jan Paul Morales trailed in third place in the individual general classification.

In 2016, financial problems weighed down Oconer. He was at a loss and close to quitting the LBC Ronda Pilipinas Mindanao leg sixth edition. Reportedly, no financial backing came nor available bike to use in the competition.

As luck would have it, Mr. Jeremy Go, upon learning Oconer’s sentiment and ordeal, interceded and lent two Storck road bikes for George Oconer and Jerry Aquino Jr. as well.

Meanwhile, in 2017, Oconer passed the LBC Ronda Pilipinas Subic Trial but skipped LBC Ronda Pilipinas seventh edition. During this time, he was already attending and shining in international competitions, such as Tour de Linggarjati in Indonesia (lap winner), Tour-de-Central-Celebes in Indonesia (lap winner and team champion) and Sri Lanka T-Cup (first overall) under the Go For Gold Team.

Since then, Sri Lanka T-Cup has acknowledged Oconer as its first multi-day cycling race titleholder.

In 2018, Oconer returned to LBC Ronda Pilipinas, donning Go For Gold elite jersey, among the two Go For Gold teams participating in LBC Ronda Pilipinas 2018. After rounding off the grueling 1,410 km-ten stage races, Oconer settled fourth in the overall GC.

Meanwhile, during LBC Ronda Pilipinas’ first UCI-sanctioned competition in 2019, the 7-Eleven newcomer Oconer demonstrated another first-class performance, becoming Ronda Pilipinas King of the Mountain, beating both local and international rivals in the said classification.

In December 2019, George Oconer, alongside Jan Paul Morales, Ronald Oranza and John Camingao, represented the Philippines in the 30th SEA Games men’s team trial in Tagaytay City under head coach Edz Hualda and Reinhard Gorantes. The quartet finished up the 82.4 km-race third in the ranking, trailing Thailand and Indonesia, and received the bronze award.

Before the pandemic completely took hold in the first quarter of 2020, George Luis Oconer finally achieved what he considered a fantasy fulfilled, becoming LBC Ronda Pilipinas 2020 titleholder after maintaining his leadership from stage five to ten.

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