Morales stays alive
ROXAS CITY, Capiz—From among the individual honors he accomplished in foreign-flavored races, Jan Paul Morales readily agrees that this one is by far the most valuable.
“It’s my first time to win a stage in a UCI (Union Cycliste Internationale) race,” said Morales in Filipino after topping the third stage of the LBC Ronda Pilipinas 2019 in a high-speed bunch finish on Sunday.
The two-time Ronda champion from Navy Standard Insurance punched the air as he crossed the line ahead of Dominic Perez of 7Eleven Cliqq Air21 by Road Bike Philippines and third-placer Projo Waseso of Next Cycling Team-CCN.
Morales clocked four hours, 35 minutes and 18 seconds with a large wave of riders that included Spaniard Francisco Mancebo Perez, still the overall leader for the third straight lap.
Mancebo, the red-jersey holder since the second stage in Guimaras, safely nestled with the chase group together with his Matrix Powertag Japan teammates throughout the rolling 179.2-kilometer route from Iloilo City.
Devoid of any punishing climb in the final two stages, the pursuit to overcome the almost four-minute advantage of Mancebo will be a tall order for general classification contenders Ronald Oranza of Navy Standard Insurance and Perez.
“The race is not yet over, we will try our best to get it (red jersey),” said the 33-year-old Morales. “But it’s going to be tough since there are no more big climbs in the next two laps.”
There was hardly any movement in the GC as Oranza remained second overall (3:52 behind) and Perez stayed at third, 3:55 back, followed by Morales (4:35), Junya Sano of Matrix (4:53) and Daeyeong Joo of Korail (4:58).
Irish Valenzuela of 7Eleven Road Bike Philippines retained his position in seventh place (5:20), Mark Julius Bordeos of Army was eighth (same time), Rustom Lim of 7Eleven ninth (5:28) and teammate Marcelo Felipe 10th (6:26).
Ismael Grospe of Go For Gold Philippine Continental Team padded his lead in the under-23 category with Korean Taewoo Kang 4:42 behind and Go For Gold teammate Daniel Ven Carino 9:13 off the pace.
Oranza, the defending Ronda champion and best Filipino after three stages, sped ahead in the last two kilometers that triggered confusion in the large group of riders in the lead pack.
Morales then saw an opening on the left flank and accelerated in the last few hundred meters for the spectacular victory.
Today’s penultimate stage here at El Pueblo is a largely flat out-and-back race covering 146.9 kilometers.
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