ROXAS CITY – Tour de France veteran Francisco Mancebo Perez of Matrix Powertag Japan stuck with his closest pursuers in Stage Four that was topped by Jamalidin Novardianto of PGN Road Cycling Team yesterday to practically crown himself champion with a lap to go in the LBC Ronda Pilipinas 2019 at the El Pueblo grounds here.
Perez, 42, wisely kept defending champion Ronald Oranza of Navy-Standard Insurance and Dominic Perez of 7Eleven Cliqq-Air 21 by Roadbike Philippines within sight and finished with the peloton that checked in 42 seconds behind stage winner Novardianto, who clocked three hours and 37.53 minutes.
With his ploy working, Mancebo Perez, whose best finish in Tour de France came in 2005 at fourth, cemented his lead with a total time of 16:01:21, or a whopping 3:52 ahead over Oranza and 3:55 over Perez.
Rounding up the top 10 were Navy’s Jan Paul Morales (4:35 behind), Matrix’s Sano Junya (4:53), Korail Korea’s Joo DaeYeong (4:58), 7Eleven’s Irish Valenzuela (5:20), Army-Bicycology’s Mark Julius Bordeos (5:20), and 7Eleven’s Rustom Lim and Arjay Peralta (6:13).
Peralta turned out to be the biggest gainer of the day after finishing third in the first of two intermediate sprints and second in the stage mountain classification that catapulted him from No. 17 the stage before to the top 10 where he overtook teammate Marcelo Felipe, who slipped to No. 13.
With the massive time advantage, the Spanish rider could reduce today’s fifth and final stage – a 148.9km lap that will start in Roxas City and end in Pandan, Antique – into his coronation lap.
But Mancebo Perez refused to be swayed, saying a lot of things could happen in the final stage.
“The last stage will be like today (yesterday), everybody will want to take the red jersey from me,” said Mancebo Perez, who seized the massive lead following an exhilarating performance in the Iloilo-Iloilo Stage One Friday.
And expect the 7Eleven riders and the Navymen to give Mancebo and Matrix a big chase.
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.