Mountain stages crucial for Ronda title contenders

By Joey Villar, The Philippine Star

Posted at Jan 10 2013 03:00 PM | Updated as of Jan 11 2013 12:22 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Two mountain stages ending in Baguio City will be the final test of endurance which will determine this year’s champion and winner of the P1 million purse in the 2013 LBC Ronda Pilipinas which gets under way Saturday in Zamboanga City.

The three Baguio stages – the 14th from Bayombong to Baguio, the individual time trial in the 15th from Pugo to Baguio, and the Baguio Criterium in the 16th and final stage – cap the 16-leg, 21-day, 2,200-kilometer tour, the longest cycling race and the richest with a total purse of P7.5 million put up for the third straight year by LBC Express Inc., the leading courier firm.

The organizers have mapped out a route taking the 96 riders, grouped into 12 teams, on a 16-stage tour of Mindanao, Visayas and Luzon starting Jan. 12 in Ipil, Zamboanga and ending in the City of Pines on Feb. 1.

The first batch of the Ronda delegation composed of technical officials, security, vehicle drivers and team staff and mechanics is due to arrive today in Zamboanga City.

Two more batches, mostly comprising of hundreds of riders of all 12 participating teams, are scheduled to fly in today and tomorrow in time for Saturday’s flag off.

“Everyone will be accounted for by Friday so the 2013 LBC Ronda Pilipinas is a go,” said Jocel de Guzman, LBC Ronda Pilipinas communications director.

The first three stages will be a tour of Mindanao, with stage 1 from Zamboanga City to Ipil (132.5km), the second stage from Ipil to Pagadian (139.5 km) and the third from Pagadian to Iligan (137.8).

From Iligan, the tour transits to Cagayan de Oro, then take the evening ferry to Cebu where riders and their entourage take a rest Jan. 15 before the start of the two-stage tour of the Visayas.

Stage 4 will be a Cebu-to-Cebu 136 km race passing the South loop via Toledo, while Stage 5 (156.8km) takes the riders from Lapu-Lapu City to Mt. View in Busay, Cebu via Balamban.

Right after the race on Jan. 18, the riders and their crew take the ferry to Manila to start the 11-stage tour of Luzon.

Stage 6 (130 km) will be from Malolos to Tarlac via the North Luzon Expressway while Stage 7 (180.5 km) takes the Tarlac-SBMA route across Point Mall. Stage 8 (183 km) is from Olongapo to Alaminos, Pangasinan.

The riders and their crew will take a one-day rest in Pangasinan with a cruise in the Hundred Islands.

Stage 9 (193.9) is the second longest on the tour but it will be run on long highways and flat roads from Mangaldan to Vigan, Ilocos Sur. Stage 10 is an 80.4 km team time trial from Bantay to Laoag, Ilocos Norte. From Laoag, the tour goes to Pagudpud for Stage 11 (171km), run from Pagudpud to Aparri, Cagayan, Stage 12 (103 km) from Aparri to Tuguegarao and Stage 13 (202.6), the tour’s longest, from Tuguegarao to Solano, Isabela.

The riders recharge for the last time on Jan. 29 to prop up their bid for cycling’s highest award in the last three stages of the tour – from Solano to Baguio (147km) on Jan. 30, Pugo to Baguio (34km) on Jan. 31 and Baguio-Baguio (67.2km) on Feb. 1.

The individual champion will bankroll P1 million with the second and third placers receiving P500,000 and P250,000, respectively.