MANILA, Philippines - A pair of reigning Southeast Asian Games gold medalists, two former champions and a slew of foreign riders spread from 17 countries are beefing up the Ronda Pilipinas 2014 slated Feb. 1-16 on a route starting at the Quezon City Circle, threading through Luzon and back to the metropolis.
Laos’ Ariya Phounsavath hopes to carry the momentum of his gold medal victory in the road race of last December’s Southeast Asian Games in Myanmar as he leads Thailand-based Infinite-Singha Cycling Team, which replaced the Uzbekistan national team after the latter begged off in the last minute.
Phounsavath, who is actually half French, will get to face off with another SEAG golden boy in Mark Galedo, the Ronda Pilipinas second edition winner who copped the gold in the 50-kilometer individual time trial and a bronze in the team road race to make the 14-stage, 16-day race a little more interesting.
Galedo, who topped the all-Filipino Ronda Pilipinas two years ago, will spearhead a 7-Eleven team managed by Bong Sual, coached by former ace sprinter Ericson Obosa and composed of Baler Ravina, Cris Joven, Edmundo Nicolas, Ryan Cayubit and Mark Julius Bordeos.
Irish Valenzuela, who came through with the ride of his life to reign supreme last year, and ageless Santy Barnachea, Ronda’s inaugural winner, are also out to challenge for the crown and become the first two-time winner as they represent Team Phl Army and Navy Standard Insurance, respectively.
A youthful PLDT-Maynilad squad comprising of under-23 riders Ronald Oranza, Rustom Lim, Junrey Navarro, Mark Bonzo, Ronald Lomotos and Joshua Carino and coached by American Chris Allison and three more local teams, Team CycleLine Butuan Mindanao, Roadbike Phl and Team Cebu-Kalit Phl Air Force are out to make a big impression.
But it will not be easy for the Filipinos as seven foreign squads, including Dutch Global Cycling Team of The Netherlands, should make life difficult for the local cyclists gunning for the distinction as the first winner of the international edition of the annual race sponsored by MVP Sports.