Riemon Lapaza (Cycleline) from Butuan was the fastest finisher from a field of 350 gravel cyclists at the inaugural UCI Gravel World Series event held in Bongabon, Philippines on Sunday.

Lapaza, racing in the 35-39 year-old category, completed the grueling 85 kilometer gravel race in 3:06:46, almost five minutes faster than Rick Nobel (EuroCyclingTrips Pro Cycling) from The Netherlands, who finished in 3:11:38. Mervin Santiago (Trek Philippines / Opus Land) clocked in at 3:11:47 to take third place overall.

Despite starting five minutes behind Nobel, Lapaza dominated the entire race, catching the lead group of riders and dropping all but Nobel by the finish.

“The wind was very strong. I just endured the wind and hoped I was strong enough to make it to the finish,” said a smiling Lapaza afterwards.

Melissa Jane Jaroda was the first women to finish, stopping the clock in 3:39:00, followed by Leilani Marie Tan in 3:59:52 and Chloe Jane Ong in 4:04:

Both Lapaza and Jaroda were awarded official UCI rainbow striped jerseys to recognize their status as Gravel World Series event champions.

Although he finished second, the Dutch rider Nobel offered nothing but praise for the UCI gravel race, “There was a hard steep climbing in the beginning, some technical roads and some water crossings. We rode through the irrigation waters, so sometimes we were just into deep water. It was fun and challenging but overall, very nice.”

The UCI Gravel World Series consists of of 12 qualifying races to be held around the world to determine the participants for the 2022 UCI Gravel World Championships.

Riders finishing in the top 25% from each age/gender category qualify to participate in the world championships, rumored to be happening in October in Italy.

Photos: UCI Gravel Philippines