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Tour de France vet Francisco Perez rules Ronda Pilipinas Iloilo

Tour de France veteran Francisco Mancebo Perez of Spain turned back time and topped the 197.6-kilometer Stage One of the LBC Ronda Pilipinas 2019 that started at the Iloilo City Hall and ended at the Megaworld Festive Walk Mall, Friday.

The 42-year-old Perez – representing Matrix Powertag Japan, whose best finish in the Tour de France was fourth overall in 2005 and a second placer in Vuelta Espana the year before – defied father time, topping the stage in five hours and 7.02 minutes.

Defending champion Ronald Oranza of Navy-Standard Insurance finished second, and 7Eleven Cliqq-Air21’s Dominic Perez third – three minutes and 52 seconds behind the Spanish veteran, whose last significant victories came in the Tour of Egypt five years ago.

“For the moment, I’m happy with the victory. For us, its good and we’ll see what happens in the race,” said Mancebo.

Jan Paul Morales, who won this annual race in 2016 and 2017, checked in at solo fourth (4:32 behind). Meanwhile, Junya Sano, Mancebo’s Matrix teammate, came in at No. 5 (4:40), and Joo Daeyeong of Team Korail Korea at No. 6 (4:51).

Rounding the top 10 were Filipinos Irish Valenzuela of 7-Eleven (5:07); Mark Julius Bordeos of Phl Army-Bicycology (5:07); Rustom Lim of 7Eleven (5:18); and Ismael Grospe of Go for Gold (6:30).

Reigning Le Tour champion El Joshua Carino of Navy-Standard Insurance was in the peloton and wound up 17th overall or 6:43 behind.

Maral Erdene Batmunkh of Terenganu Inc TSG Cycling conquered the mountains of Antique, and was with Mancebo in the breakaway in the first 100 kilometers.

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But Batmunkh faded due to cramps, leaving Mancebo – who topped the intermediate sprint of the stage – alone up front for the surprisingly easy win.

Thanks to Mancebo’s impressive performance, Matrix zoomed to the early team lead with a total time of 15:32:36, or 3:07 ahead of No. 2 7Eleven and 3:57 faster than No. 3 Navy-Standard Insurance.

For Oranza, 26, they’re just happy to be near the front.

“The plan was to send two riders in front and we somehow succeeded in executing it,” said Oranza in Filipino.

LBC Ronda Pilipinas 2019 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.

The race will resume today with 101.8km Stage Two in Guimaras.

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