Team PGN’s Jamalidin Novardianto raises his arms in victory at the finish lane of the Roxas-to-Roxas Stage 4 of Ronda Pilipinas.
Ernie Pen?aredondo
Francisco Mancebo Perez virtual Ronda Pilipinas champ
Joey Villar (The Philippine Star) - February 12, 2019 - 12:00am

ROXAS CITY, Philippines — Francisco Mancebo Perez of Matrix Powertag Japan has had the LBC Ronda Pilipinas 2019 crown virtually in the bag.

Riding intelligently, the 42-year-old Mancebo stayed with the peloton that included chief rivals – defending champion Ronald Oranza of Navy-Standard Insurance and Dominic Perez of 7Eleven Cliqq-Air21 by Roadbike Philippines – in Stage Four that started and ended at the El Pueblo grounds here yesterday.

Indonesian Jamalidin Novardianto of PGN Road Cycling Team took stage honors by edging Malaysian Mohd Shahrul Mat Amin of Terengganu and Korean Joo Kangeun of Korail Korea in a mad dash to the finish. The three riders clocked three hours, 37 minutes, 33 seconds.

Mancebo, fourth placer in the 2005  Tour de France, merely cruised to the finish line with the main group that checked in 42 seconds behind Novardianto.

It was enough to keep the Spaniard comfortably perched at the helm with a total time of 16:01:21, way ahead of Oranza (3:52 behind) and Perez (3:55), reducing today’s 148.9km Roxas-Antique final stage to a virtual victory lap.

In the chase group 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).

Mancebo, however, insisted it isn’t over until it’s over.

“I will only tell you I’m the winner if I’m already the winner after final stage,” said Mancebo, whose last major multi-stage triumph came in the Tour of Egypt four years ago. “There is still one stage, we have to be careful.”

Matrix also kept its lead in the team general classification with an aggregate time of 48:15:52.

But unlike in the individual general classification, the lead by Matrix over 7Eleven (2:05 behind) and Navy (2:49) is not that safe.

And both the 7Eleven riders and Navymen promised to make one memorable chase.

“There is still one stage to go, we’re still not giving up,” said Morales, the 2016 and 2017 Ronda king.

And there is that rivalry between Navy and 7Eleven.

After four stages, 7Eleven led Navy by just 44 seconds, which can be easily overhauled with one big performance.

Navy has lorded it over Ronda for the five straight years and has beaten 7Eleven in last year’s 2018 Le Tour where Navyman El Joshua Carino emerged champion.

“Of course, Ronda is our race. We have to defend our turf,” said Morales.

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