MANILA, Philippines - Defending champion Mark John Lexer Galedo will be a marked man as he leads a tough field of veterans and rising, young stars in the third chapter of the LBC Ronda Pilipinas cycling race, the country’s biggest, richest cycling event, slated Jan. 12-Feb. 1 over the breadth and width of the archipelago.
The 27-year-old champion from Mandaluyong became the tour’s second cycling millionaire, after Santy Barnachea in 2011, after ruling the 2012 event with a 33-second margin.
He earned an all-tax-paid P1,138,000, including P25,000 for three runner-up stage finishes, P15,000 for a third place stage finish, P15,000 as second placer in the King of the Mountain event, P14,000 as overall leader for seven stages from ninth stage, and his share in the sixth place finish of his team.
He and first runner-up Irish Valenzuela and second runner-up Lloyd Lucien Reynante were seeded into 2013 96-man field, leaving 93 slots open for contention among 400 aspirants in last October’s national trials in Tarlac.
Most of the 93 others who passed the qualifying races are carryovers from the 2012 campaign, looking for revenge and another fling with glory in the country’s richest spectacle on wheels which offers the individual champion P1 million, runner-up P500,000 and third P250,000 with the rest of the individual prizes spread to the 20th place.
The total pot, which includes prizes for King of the Mountain, Rookie of the year, leg and overall stage finishes, was put up by the sponsoring LBC Ronda Express, Inc., the leading courier firm.
Competition will be equally tough in the team category, where the cyclists were grouped into 16 teams according to their strength to level the playing field. The champion wins P1 million, second placer P500,000 with all the teams winning a prize.
Among the top guns are Cris Joven, Joel Calderon, Mark Julius Bonzo, John Renee Mier, Merculio Ramos, Ryan Tanguilig, Warren Davadilla and Tots Oledan.
Barely three months after the conclusion of the inaugural race last June, the country’s cyclists were back on their wheels for the October trials and their buildup to the January race, with hardly a break from training as they squeezed their roadwork during the typhoon months that hit parts of the country.
The tour, now on its third year, was scheduled earlier to avoid the typhoon months that exposed cyclists as well as spectators to accidents, and, with a touch of tourism, it also coincides with the celebration of Sinulog in Cebu City and the Panagbenga Flower Festival in Baguio.
The 16-stage, 20-day race, which fires off Jan. 12 in Zamboanga City, will trace virtually the same routes in Mindanao, Visayas and Luzon and ends up in Baguio, in one of its coldest days, in the final stage on Feb. 1.