PANDAN, Antique — Francisco Mancebo Perez of Matrix Powertag Japan used the fifth and final stage as his victory lap as he fended off spirited challenges put up by determined Filipino riders and ruled the LBC Ronda Pilipinas 2019 that ended in this serene and scenic town Tuesday.
The 42-year-old Mancebo settled for just 50th place in the 148.9-kilometer final stage that started in Roxas City and ended in front of droves of cheering students at the Pandan Bay Institute here as he was never really in danger.
The Spaniard checked in 32 seconds off Stage Five winner El Joshua Carino of Navy-Standard Insurance, who bested a star-studded field headed by Tour de Langkawi champion Artem Ovechkin and two-time gold medal winner Mohd Harrif Saleh of Terengganu in a mad dash to the finish line.
All three — Carino, Ovechkin and Saleh — though clocked three hours, 24 minutes and 37 seconds.
At the end of this five-stage, UCI-sanctioned race that went from Iloilo City to Guimaras to Iloilo to Roxas and finally, Antique, Mancebo emerged as the undisputed champion as he dominated the race from start to finish and ended with an aggregate time of 19:26:30.
Last year’s Ronda king Ronald Oranza of Navy finished at distant second or 3:20 minutes behind while Dominic Perez of 7Eleven Cliqq-Air21 by Roadbike Philippines ended up at third or 3:23 off the pace.
It was the first triumph by Mancebo in a multi-stage race since he lorded it over the Tour of Egypt four years back.
“This is the triumph not just by myself but by all the members of the team who supported me,” said Mancebo, a Tour de France veteran whose best effort there was fourth overall in 2005.
For Oranza, the second-place performance failed to spoil his 26th birthday celebration.
“I’m still the best Filipino rider and it still felt like I won a second straight Ronda title and a good birthday gift for myself,” said Oranza, a proud son of Villasis, Pangasinan.
Oranza said having a legendary veteran in Mancebo competing on local said is good for Filipino riders in general.
“He (Mancebo) is really a strong rider and hard to beat. We still have long ways to go and need more training to be at par with them,” he said.
Navy’s Jan Paul Morales (4:03 behind), the 2016 and 2017 Ronda champion, Matrix’s Sano Junya (4:21), Korail Korea’s Joo Daeyeong (4:26), 7Eleven’s Irish Valenzuela (4:48), Army-Bicycology’s Mark Julius Bordeos (4:48), 7Eleven’s Rustom Lim (4:56) and Navy’s Rudy Roque (5:42) rounded up the top 10 in the individual general classification race.
Mancebo made it a double celebration as his Matrix also took the overall team classification trophy with a total clocking of 58:31:36 ahead of 7Eleven (00:12) and Navy (0:56).
Navy’s Junrey Navarra emerged the sprint king, 7Eleven’s George Oconer the king of the mountain and Go for Gold’s Ismael Grospe the best under-23 rider.