MANILA, Philippines - Top Filipino cyclists face upcoming stars and a dangerous foreign challenge in the 14-stage, 16-day Ronda Pilipinas 2014, which covers 1,776 kilometers on a route that starts and ends in the National Capital Region.
Defending champion Irish Valenzuela of the Phl Army, Southeast Asian Games gold medalist Mark Galedo of 7-Eleven and fast-rising Ronald Oranza of Team PLDT will spearhead the local teams when they face seven international teams including the Netherlands, represented by Global Cycling Team Holland, in the first international edition of the race which flags off Feb. 1 at the Quezon Memorial Circle.
Valenzuela, who came through with the ride of his life to snare his first Ronda title, has moved to Army after his old team, LPGMA-American Vinyl, disbanded and could be hard-pressed to defend his crown this year.
Galedo, for his part, is confident he can recall the old form he displayed in topping the second staging of the annual event, thanks to his strong showing in last December’s Myanmar SEAG where he brought home a gold and a bronze medal.
“It will be tougher this year because we will not only competing against our fellow Filipino riders but also some foreign participants,” said the 27-year-old Galedo, who received over P100,000 worth of incentives from the Phl Sports Commission for his recent feats, in Filipino.
“But I have trained hard for this event and I hope to make not just my 7-Eleven team, but also our country proud,” he added.
Oranza, who took home a pair of SEAG bronze medals, leads an LBC-MVPSF team coached by American Chris Allison and composed mainly of under-23 cyclists including Joshua Carino, Rustom Lim, Junrey Navarra, Mark Bonzo and Ronald Lomotos.
Phil Navy Standard Insurance should also contend for individual and team honors with a lethal combination of veterans in Ronda Pilipinas first edition champion Santy Barnachea, Lloyd Lucien Reynante and Joel Calderon and youth in George Oconer and John Rene Mier.
Roadbike, one of the two-team 7-Eleven’s Bong Sual is managing, will be reinforced by Spanish Edgar Nieto and Briton Daniel Patten to go with local bet Ronnel Hualda.
Mindanao and the Visayas will also be represented by Team Mindanao Cycleline Butuan and Team Cebu.
Aside from Global Cycling Team Holland, the international field will be composed of the Malaysian national team, which snatched a silver and a bronze in Myanmar, Japan’s Matrix Powertag, Chinese Taipei’s Team Gusto, Iran’s Ayandeh Continental Team, Thailand’s CNN Cycling Team and the Uzbekistan national team led by reigning Asian champion Muradian Halmuratov.
The race opens with a 66-km opening stage criterium on Feb. 1 at the Quezon City Memorial Circle followed by a 156.7-km Stage Two unfurling in Muntinlupa City and ending in Silang, Cavite on Feb. 2.
The other stops are Stage 3, Feb. 3, 135.9 km (Tagaytay-San Pablo; Stage 4, Feb. 4, 103.7 km. (San Pablo-Lucena), Stage 5, Feb. 5, 148.2 km (Lucena-Lucena); Stage 6, Feb. 7, 155.1 km (Lucena-Antipolo); Stage 6, Feb. 7, 172-km (Valenzuela-Tarlac), Stage 7, Feb. 8, 182.2 km (Tarlac-Dagupan), Stage 8, Feb. 9, 97.4 km (Dagupan-Baguio via Kennon Road), Stage 9, Feb. 10, 98 km (San Fernando-Baguio)before taking another respite in the City of Pines on Feb. 11.
It will be the calm before the storm as riders plunge into the final, toughest windup with a 72.9-km Baguio City Stage 10 criterium on Feb. 12, 98-km San Fernando-Baguio via Marcos Highway Stage 11 on Feb. 13, 182-km Agoo-Angeles City Stage 12 on Feb. 14, 146-km Angeles-Subic Stage 13 on Feb. 15 before winding up with a 60-km criterium in the National Capital Region on Feb. 16.