Aidan Mendoza of Go for Gold delivered his first lap victory in his young career even as Jan Paul Morales of Excellent Noodles clung to the overall lead despite suffering cramps in the 163-kilometer Stage Three that started in Sorsogon City and ended at the Kalayaan Park in Legazpi City, Saturday.
Mendoza, 22, outsprinted Excellent Noodles’ Mervin Corpuz and Ryan Tugawin and six others in the final kilometer to claim his breakthrough stage triumph in four hours and 20 seconds and barge into the top 10 in the individual general classification race with an aggregate time of 5:33:38.
Mendoza, who had a third place finish in the Tarlac-Tarlac Stage Six two years ago, later dedicated his win to Go for Gold team manager Jeremy Go, who turned a leaf the same day.
“This is for our boss Jeremy Go,” said Mendoza, who decided to forego college to focus on racing.
Corpuz, nephew of Excellent Noodles skipper and two-time Ronda king Santy Barnachea, and Tugawin were a spent duo having been part of the 11-man breakaway group in the first 10km and settled for a podium finish with identical clocking as Mendoza.
Also in that lead pack were Tabako, Albay native Cris Joven of Army, Marcelo Felipe of Nueva Ecija, 2018 winner Ronald Oranza and John Mark Camingao of Navy Standard Insurance, and Edson Corbadora and Landerson Nebres of Drey.
Morales, for his part, battled cramps in finishing in a 10-man chase pack with a time of 4:00:30 to keep his stranglehold of the overall lead in 5:31:59 and would wear the red LBC jersey in the 189.1km Legazpi-Daet Stage Four on Sunday.
“I was already feeling cramps in the final 20 kilometers but I decided to just endure it,” said the 36-year-old Morales, who is seeking his third Ronda crown after reigning supreme in 2016 and 2017.
Interestingly, four of Morales’ teammates—Tugawin, Barnachea, Corpuz and Mar Francis Sudario—crowd the top five with times of 5:32:39, 5:32:43; 5:32:51 and 5:34:30.
Rounding out the top 10 were Go for Gold’s Ronnilan Quita (5:34:39), Oranza (5:35:04), Go for Gold’s Jonel Carcueva (5:35:18), Jericho Jay Lucero (5:35:32) ands Mendoza.
Defending champion George Oconer of Navy Standard Insurance improved a bit as he leapt from No. 19 to No. 13 in 5:35:16.
This annual sports spectacle stakes a P3.5 million pot including P1 million to the champion courtesy of LBC Express, Inc., MVP Sports Foundation, Quad X, Smart, Twin Cycle Gear, Standard Insurance, Print2Go, Elves Bicycles, Elitewheels, Orome, Maynilad, PhilHydro, Garmin, Petron, Boy Kanin, Green Planet Bikeshop, Prolite, Fujiwara, Black Mamba Energy Drink, Lightwater, LBC Foundation, PhilCycling and the Games and Amusements Board.