SORSOGON — Five former champions, headed by two-time winners Jan Paul Morales of Standard Insurance-Navy and Santy Barnachea of Scratch It, and a slew of worthy challengers battle it out for cycling supremacy as the 10-stage LBC Ronda Pilipinas 10th anniversary race unfolds on February 23 in front of the provincial capitol here.
Morales, who won it in 2016 and 2017; and Barnachea, the inaugural winner in 2011 who repeated in 2015, will both aim to write history as they seek to become the first three-time winner of this annual race staking a whopping purse worth P1 million for the individual champion alone.
“I always aim to win it all in all the races I join, and I’m confident of my chances this year,” said the 34-year-old Morales.
Barnachea, 43, for his part, said he would do his best to win in this event presented by LBC and sponsored by the Manny V. Pangilinan Sports Foundation and backed by Versa, 8A Performance, Print2Go, Petron, Green Planet, Bike Xtreme, Standard Insurance, Spyder, CCN, Lightwater, Prolite, Guerciotti, Black Mamba, Boy Kanin, Vitamin Boost, NLEX-SCTEX, Maynilad, 3Q Sports Event Management Inc., LBC Foundation and PhilCycling.
“We’ll know when the race starts, but for me, anything can happen in this kind of race,” said Barnachea.
This year’s edition will be extra special since all but two of the winners in the past nine editions are joining Ronald Oranza of Standard Insurance-Navy (2018); Mark Galedo of 7Eleven Cliqq-Air21 by Roadbike Philippines (2012); and Reimon Lapaza of Celeste Cycles PH-Devel Project Pro Team (2014).
Only Irish Valenzuela (2013) and Francisco Mancebo (2019) are not joining.
Also being eyed as legitimate title contenders are former Le Tour champion El Joshua Carino, Junrey Navarra and George Oconer of Standard Insurance, Marcelo Felipe, the best Filipino finisher in last year’s staging, and 7Eleven teammate Rustom Lopez, Ronnel Hualda, Daniel Ven Carino, Ismael Grospe Jr., and Jonel Carcueva of Go for Gold, Cris Joven, Marvin Tapic, and Dominic Perez of Bicycology-Army, and Michael Angelo Ochoa and Warren Bordeos of Bike Xtreme, among others.
“It’s a wide-open race,” said Morales.
Meanwhile, LBC Ronda Pilipinas chairman Moe Chulani announced Stage Six will now be a Tarlac to Tarlac lap on Feb. 29 and Stage Seven Tarlac to Palayan City, Nueva Ecija on March 1 instead of Lingayen-Lingayen and Lingayen-Palayan.
The rest—137-km Sorsogon-Sorsogon Stage One, 163km Sorsogon-Legazpi Stage Two on Feb. 24, 126.9km Legazpi-Naga Stage Three on Feb. 25, 212.5km Daet-Lucena Stage Four on Feb. 26, 155.4km Lucena-Antipolo Stage Five on Feb. 27, 177.1km Nueva Ecija-Baguio Stage Eight on March 2, 176.4km Pugo, La Union-Vigan Stage Nine on March 3 and Vigan Stage 10 on March 4.
“We’re expecting an exciting race because most practically all the country’s top cyclists including most of our past LBC Ronda Pilipinas champions are joining,” said Chulani.