Two-time champion Jan Paul Morales of Navy-Standard Insurance showed why he's one of the country's top sprinters as he bested everyone in a mass finish to rule Stage Three of the LBC Ronda Pilipinas 2019 that started in Iloilo and ended at the Roxas City Hall in Roxas City Sunday.
Morales, who reigned as Ronda king in 2016 and 2017, needed a big push in the final 500 meters to take the 179.4-kilometer lap in four hours, 35 minutes and 18 seconds as he edged Dominic Perez of 7Eleven Cliqq-Air21 by Roadbike Philippines and Indonesian Projo Waseso Nex Cycling Team, who finished second and third clocking the same time.
The stage win was the first for the 33-year-old Morales in a UCI-sanctioned race.
The triumph was made extra special by the fact that Morales outsprinted two-time Southeast Asian Games gold medalist Mohd Harriff Saleh, a Malaysia who rides for powerhouse Terengganu Inc. TSG Cycling Team.
"I'm so happy because this first time a won a stage in a UCI race and I beat my idol (Saleh)," said Morales, whose closest brush to winning one came in 2011 when he finished second to an Australian in one of the stages in the Le Tour de Filipinas, in Filipino.
It was the second time that a Filipino topped a stage here after Marcelo Felipe of 7Eleven bested 2018 Le Tour titlist El Joshua Carino of Navy-Standard to snare the Stage Two win the day before in Guimaras.
Tour de France veteran Francisco Mancebo Perez of Matrix Powertag Japan emerged the Stage One winner.
Morales' recent feat, however, failed to make a dent in the individual and team general classification as the 42-year-old Mancebo and his Matrix Powertag Japan team continued to lead both divisions by a mile.
Mancebo, whose best finish in the Tour de France came in 2005 when he placed fourth, rode intelligently and successfully defended the lead and checked in at ninth in the stage in that frantic finish Morales won.
It was enough to keep Mancebo comfortably perched on top with an aggregate time of 12:22:46, or 3:52 minutes ahead of reigning Ronda champion Ronald Oranza of Navy-Standard and 3:55 atop Perez, who registered his second podium finish after winding up second in Stage One in Iloilo.
Morales (4:35 behind) remained at No. 4, Matrix's Joo Daeyeong (4:53) at No. 5 and 7Eleven's Irish Valenzuela (5:20), the 2012 Ronda winner, at No. 6.
Rounding up the top 10 were Army-Bicycology's Mark Julius Bordeos (5:20) and 7Eleven's Rustom Lim (5:28) and Marcelo Felipe (6:26).
Mancebo's Matrix squad kept its stranglehold of the overall team lead with a total clocking of 37:20:07 ahead of 7Eleven (3:31) and Navy-Standard (8:30).
Mancebo will continue to wear the symbolic leader's LBC red jersey in today's 146.9km Stage Four that will start and end at El Pueblo here.
Ronda is presented by LBC, powered by MVP Sports Foundation and supported by Versa 2-Way Radio, Juan Movement Partylist, Joel P Longares Foundation, Standard Insurance, Bike Xtreme, Green Planet, Prolite, Celeste Cycles, Maynilad, 3Q Sports, Boy Kanin, Mega World, Festive Walk, Seda Atria and LBC Foundation and in partnership with the Department of Tourism, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Iloilo City and the Province of Guimaras.