Roxas City—Navyman Jan Paul Morales overcame his awe of the famed Salleh brothers and went on to win a duel with one of them to take Stage 3 of the LBC Ronda Pilipinas 2019 here.
The presence of three-time Southeast Asian Games gold medalist Mohd Harif Salleh did not intimidate Morales who overtook him in the last 10 kilometers and towed a big 20-man group when he reached the finish line at the back of the Immaculate Conception College in Legazpi Street.
Morales expressed his admiration for Salleh, a known sprinter, after topping the 179.2 kilometer run from Iloilo City to Roxas City in Capiz. in four hours, 35 minutes and 18 seconds.
“Idol ko kasi iyung Salleh, kaya nakipag-rematehan ako sa Salleh brothers,” said Morales, on Terangganu’s bid to get their sprinters at the front of the peloton.
After chasing down reigning Tour de Langkawi champion Artem Ovechkin and overall leader Francisco Mancebo Perez in the last 10 kilometers, the 34-year-old Morales engaged Salem in a sprint duel to earn his first ever stage win in a UCI-sanctioned race.
“Hinabol namin ang Matrix. Tapos nagtulungan at lumaban ang Terangganu dahil may sprinter sila. Masaya, first time kong nag lap sa UCI race,” said Morales.
With his first ever stage win in a UCI-sanctioned event, Morales moved to fourth place in the overall individual classification rankings.
Morales, racing under the Philippine Navy-Standard Insurance banner, made the move for positioning against Harif, a three-time SEA Games gold medalist and his brother Zamri while approaching the flat roads of the Calitan, Panay farmlands.
The Salleh brothers are one of the most feared sprinters for Terangganu, with Harif having claimed top 10 finishes in many races around Southeast Asian, while his brother Zamri was seventh place overall in the Tour de Langkawi last year.
Defending champion Ronald Oranza made an effort to sprint to the front in the final 2 kilometers as the Navymen’s decoy. He was chased by Ovechkin and other members of Team Terangganu and Matrix Powertag, led by Mancebo-Perez.
This Morales gave the chance he was looking for.
Dominic Perez, a 7-11 rider, who was spent from chasing Oranza along with Terangganu and Matrix Powertag riders, struggled to a second place finish, followed by Nex sprinter Projo Wasebo.
Seohoe Bang of Korail-Korea settled for fourth ahead of the 30-year-old Harif.
Birthday celebrant Marcelo Felipe of Team 711 was behind Salleh in sixth, followed by Jamalidin Novardianto of Team PGN, who took seventh.
Mancebo-Perez, who stuck it out with Ovechkin when they entered the province of Capiz, was eighth and ahead of Navyman Junrey Navarra.
The 42-year-old Mancebo-Perez kept the overall individual honors for a third straight day with a total time of seven hours, 47 minutes and 28 seconds.
Oranza has managed move behind in second, but he trails Mancebo, who remained unmoved with his lead of 3 minutes and 52 seconds.
Perez’s second place finish put him at no. 2 overall trailing by 4:01. Morales is fourth and behind by four minutes and 45 seconds.
Stage 4 will be a 146.9 kilometer race around Roxas, starting and ending at the Robinson Place inside Roxas City.