Ismael Grospe Jr. of Go For Gold Philippines Continental Cycling Team outsprinted Hyosuk Gong of LX Cycling Team Korea in the last 10 meters to win the first stage of the PRURide PH road race which started and ended in front of the Harbor Point Mall here.

Grospe clocked three hours, 15 minutes and 47.80 seconds to rule the 130-kilometer stage, passing the towns Morong, Bagac, Pilar, Balanga City, Abucay, Samal, Orani, Hermosa, and Dinalupihan.

Gong, a 35-year-old rider from Seoul, crossed the finish line in 3:15:48.09 followed by Eritrean Daniel Habtemichael of 7-Eleven CLIQQ Air 21 (3:15:57.09).

Hindi ko akalain na magiging stage winner ako ngayon. Nilakasan ko lang ang loob ko. Nung kumawala ako salast five kilometers, dineretso ko na [I did not expect to be a stage winner today. I just put up a brave front. When I broke away in the last five kilometers, I sprinted all the way to the finish line],” said the 20-year-old Grospe, who was born and raised in Lupao town, Nueva Ecija.

“Nagpapasalamat ako sa tulong ng mga teammates ko [I am thankful to the support of my teammates],” added Grospe.

For winning the first stage, Grospe received a trophy and PHP65,000 in cash.

Aside from claiming the overall red jersey, Grospe made Go For Gold godfather Jeremy Go more proud after getting three more jerseys as Best Filipino Rider (blue), Best Young Rider Under 23 (black) and Sprints Point Leader (green).

His fellow Go For Gold riders are Daniel Ven Carino, Jonel Carcueva, Ronnel Hualda, Ronnilan Quita, and Elmer Navarro with Go For Gold project director and headcoach Ednalyn Hualda laying out the strategy for the team.

“The leaders are only seconds apart. We will try to retain the overall jersey going into today’s race,” said Hualda.

Gong got PHP45,000 while Habtemichael received PHP25,000.

Grospe, who developed his skill by riding from Nueva Ecija to Baguio when he was 17 years old, said he will try to keep the overall lead in the 2.2 Men’s Elite Road Race sanctioned by the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), which is the world-governing body in the sport.

The second stage on Saturday covers 164.5 kilometers starting in front of the Harbor Point Mall and ending at the “Dambana ng Kagitingan” (Shrine of Valor) on Mt. Samat.

A total of PHP2 million in cash prizes is at stake in the tournament which has attracted 156 professional cyclists from Australia, Chinese Taipei, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, and the Philippines.

Among the 17 foreign teams competing, Malaysia’s Terengganu Inc. TSG is the best-ranked in the Asia Tour at No. 2 followed by Hong Kong’s Pro Cycling, which is No. 8.

Six local teams are also competing in the PRURide road race. These are Philippine Navy-Standard Insurance, Philippine Army-Bicycology, Team Tarlac, Celeste Cycles-Bianchi PH Pro Racing, Team Francis Wines and Team Pangasinan.

Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam are represented by their national teams with Thai Navuti Liphongyu as the world’s highest-ranked rider in the competition at No. 493.

The PRURide PH 2019 also features PruRide Masters, Virtual Ride, Philippine Strider Cup and Grand Fondo 30km, 60km and 100km races for amateur cyclists. To further promote health and fitness, fun activities such as Zumba sessions, arcade games and health check stations are also lined up during the country’s largest cycling festival. (PNA)

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