Spanish conquistador

FRANCISCO Mancebo Perez of Matrix Powertag Japan reacts after ruling the 2019 LBC-Ronda Pilipinas yesterday in Pandan, Antique. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

PANDAN, Antique — Former Tour de France campaigner Francisco Mancebo Peréz of Spain displayed his deadly form as he dominated the 2019 LBC-Ronda Pilipinas that ended here Tuesday afternoon.

Despite failing to win the second to fifth stages, Mancebo still emerged victorious as his impressive performance in the opening stage gave him enough cushion to rule this event sanctioned by the International Cycling Union (UCI).

Stage 1 was the longest route — a 197-kilometer stretch in Iloilo — but the noted 42-year-old Spanish managed to conquer it with a lead of three minutes and 52 seconds to dictate the tempo until the finish line.

With the help of his teammates, the 2005 Tour de France and Vuelta A España top five finisher just protected his lead, controlling the peloton the rest of the race to win the general classification over 89 riders with a total time of 19 hours, 26 minutes and 30 seconds.
“It’s hard to control the race and keep the lead. It’s not easy,” said Mancebo, who hails from Madrid.

“We had some problems in other flat roads and the wind is so strong. Moreover, 7-Eleven and Philippine Navy are very strong teams so we had to work hard for this. We’re very happy with this win.”

Last year’ champion Ronald Oranza (19:29:50) of Philippine Navy-Standard Insurance settled for second place while Dominic Perez (19:29:53) of 7-Eleven Cliqq-Air21 by Roadbike Philippines completed the podium.

Meanwhile, Le Tour de Filipinas champion El Joshua Cariño of Philippine Navy made sure to cop the next biggest prize after owning the 146.9-km Roxas City, Capiz-Pandan, Antique Stage 5 with a time of 3:24:27.

Following him at second and third places, respectively, were 2018 Tour de Langkawi king Artem Ovenchkin (3:24:37) and Mohd Harrif Saleh (3-24:37) of Terrengganu TSG cycling team from Malaysia.

Mancebo (3:25:09) finished at 50th place as part of the large peloton, relegating Matrix Powertag — the race leader since Stage 1 — to just 10th in Stage 5’s team classification category.

Fortunately for Matrix, it had a huge lead of two minutes and five seconds entering the last stage to still emerge as TC winner with an overall time of 58:31:36 after a grueling 774.6-km, five-stage race.

Matrix was just ahead by 12 seconds over second placer 7-Eleven, which finished the tour with a time of 58:31:48.

Former titlist Philippine Navy (58:32:26) came in as the third best squad in the 15-team field composed of seven local and eight foreign teams.

Despite failing to defend his crowd against a formidable cast bannered by top foreign riders, Oranza still kept his title as the Best Filipino Rider.

Perez of 7-Eleven and former back-to-back Ronda King Jan Paul Morales finished as second and third best local cyclist.

After five stages highlighted by steep terrains, veteran cyclist George Oconer of 7-Eleven was also hailed as the King of the Mountain with a total of nine points, barely prevailing over Terengganu’s Maral-Erdene Batmunkh and Philippine Navy’s Ronald Lomotos.

Rounding up the set of awardees was Ismael Grospe of Go For Gold, who copped the Best Under-23 Rider citation with an overall time of 19:32:41.

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