SIPALAY CITY - Jaybop Pagnanawon outshone big guns Irish Valenzuela and Baler Ravina to rule the 172.7-kilometer Stage One in the Visayas leg of the Ronda Pilipinas 2015 presented by LBC that started in Dumaguete and ended in this quaint Negros Occidental city.
Pagnanawon, son of 1986 Marlboro Tour chambpion Rolando, topped the relatively flat stage in four hours, 25 minutes and 10 seconds, besting Valenzuela and Ravina, who checked in at second and third places with times of 4:25.11 and 4:25.12, respectively.
"My father taught me to be confident of my abilities and to work hard to achieve my dream," said the 26-year-old Pagnanawon, a native of Talisay in Cebu who is representing Team Negros, in Filipino.
It was an impressive start for Pagnanawon, who won his first ever Ronda lap after some third place finishes in four campaigns.
So impressive was Pagnanawon that he also topped the King of the Mountain race and the intermediate sprint to add P6,000 to his P25,000 winnings for topping the stage.
But Pagnanawon said the goal is to make it to the championship round slated from February 22-27 from Paseo Greenfiled City in Sta. Rosa, Laguna to mountaintop Baguio where he hopes to defy the odds and win his first ever Tour, like his father.
"My father is my idol. I want to be a champion like him," said Pagnanawon, who also competed with younger brother Junvie and cousin Jetley Paganawon.
Rounding up the Top 10 were Alvin Benosa (4:25.39), Boots Cayubit (4:26.02), Reynaldo Navarro (4:26-38), Kenneth Solis (4:26.43), Cris Joven (4:26.44), Leonel Dimaano (4:26.44) and Denver Casayuran (4:26.45).
Solis ended up topping the under-23 side ahead of Dominic Perez and Arjey Peralta while the Top 3 finishers of the 18-and-under division were Edalson Ellorem, Daniel Van and Engilbert Enarciso.
After bidding their time, 2012 Ronda champion Valenzuela, 7-Eleven's Ravina, Army' Benosa and Pagnanawon made their move 20 kms into Sipalay and broke away from what had been a 19-man lead pack.
The race resumes on Thursday with a 156.6-km Stage Two starting at the Bacolod City Plaza, passing through the mountains of Don Salvador Benedicto twice via San Carlos before returnbing to the Bacolod City Government Center.
Ronda race director Ric Rodriguez said this is one of the toughest stages not just in the qualifying legs but in the whole race as it boasts of three long, Category 2 ascents in Don Salvador Benedicto.
Among the cities and towns Ronda will pass by in Stage Two are Murcia, Mt. Kanlaon, San Carlos before turning back to Bacolod for the finish.
The race is being presented by LBC and backed by major sponsors the MVP Sports Foundation, Petron and Mitsubishi and minor sponors Cannondale, Standard Insurance, Tech1 Corp., Maynilad and NLEX and sanctioned by PhilCycling under Cavite Congressman Abraham "Bambol" Tolentino with TV5 and Sports Radio as media partners.