BACOLOD CITY - Marcelo Felipe of 7-Eleven displayed his vaunted mountain-climbing skills to top Stage Two even as teammate Boots Ryan Cayubit seized the overall lead on Thursday in the Visayas qualifying leg of the Ronda Pilipinas 2015 presented by LBC.
Felipe, 25, topped all three KOM laps in this 156.6-kilometer stage that propelled him to his first ever stage victory with a time of five hours, two minutes and 12 seconds, besting Cayubit and last year's Ronda champion Reimon Lapaza of Butuan in the leg that started and ended in this charming southern capital.
The win catapulted Felipe from 18th in Wednesday's Dumaguete-Sipalay Stage One to second overall with a total time of 9:33.00, or three minutes behind Cayubit, who leapt from fifth the day before to No. 1 with an aggregate clocking of 9:29.50.
"I'm just happy to win myself a stage for the first time in Ronda Pilipinas," said Felipe, who finished third in a Tarlac stage three years ago, in Filipino.
But it looked as if Felipe would seize the solo lead after separating himself from the rest of the pack with a massive nine-minute lead after emerging from the mountains of Don Salvador Benedicto.
Cayubit though unleashed his power, left everyone in the chase group and almost caught up with Felipe. The effort was enough though to give Cayubit the red LBC jersey, symbolic of the overall leadership, going to today's third and final stage.
"I didn't expect to be in the lead but I'm happy I made it here," said Cayubit, who was discovered in this same Ronda race four years ago when he was still riding for the Warren Davadilla-led Metro Manila team.
For Lapaza, who is already qualified for the championship round set February 22-27 from Paseo Greenfield to Baguio City, he used this tournament to guide his younger brother, Cesar, as well as warm up for the main event.
"I'm just here to warm up and help my brother a bit," said the 28-year-old Lapaza, who has dedicated his race this year to former Butuan teammate Vicmar Vicente, who died last year after he was bumped by a truck.
The former red jersey holder, Jaybop Pagnanawon, succumbed to the ascents and managed to finish the stage 25 minutes off the pace. The son of 1986 Marlboro Tour champion Rolando is expected to make up for his big decline in today's relatively flat final stage.
The Visayas phase will conclude on Friday with the 123.2-km Stage Three that will start and end in front of the Negros Occidental Provincial Capitol.
"Stage Three is a sprinter's delight," said race director Ric Rodriguez.
The race is being presented by LBC and supported by major sponsors the Manny V. Pangilinan 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.