ORMOC CITY – The weary road warriors of the 2nd LBC Ronda Pilipinas – all 96 of them still intact – took a well-earned respite on Monday here before resuming their cycling war for fame and fortune today.
After five rigorous days of action and a third into the cycling odyssey, the men of summer have already covered 694 kilometers through four cities, several towns and five provinces in Mindanao to pursue the top prize in the P7-million, multi-stage bikefest.
But depending on who you were talking to, the early frontrunners may already have a leg up the while the race is just beginning for the rest of the field in the competition presented by LBC and backed by Total, Rudy Project, MVP Sports Foundation, IcomIdas and DHL.
“Medyo may na-pondo na rin kami, kaya malaking bagay na rin iyon,” said team manager Caezar Galazarte of frontrunning V-Mobile, which has maintained the overall lead for the last two straight days.
The V-Mobile riders are on top with a 51:16.49 cumulative output, a minute and eight seconds ahead Mindanao (51:17.56) and 2:15 up on Roadbike Philippines, which are in second and third, respectively.
One Tarlac coach Loreto Mandi, however, said that the real contest will be fought once the cyclists hit Luzon, starting with seventh stage, a short but challenging 115-km. drive from Legazpi City to Naga City, featuring the taxing and winding “Bitukang Manok” in Sta. Elena.
“Mahaba pa to at malakas ang palagay ko sa Luzon kami magkakatalo kung saan maraming mahahabang ahon,” said Mandi, noting the following leg – a grueling 209.2-km grind from Daet, Camarines Norte to Lucena City in Quezon – could be another turning point for the riders.
Roadbike Philippines team manager Bong Sual said that teams with climbing specialists would always have the edge over the opposition in these legs, pointing out that he has newly-crowned Le Tour de Filipinas champion Baler Ravina and captain Mark Galedo, a double Southeast Asian Games silver medalist, in leading their challenge.
“Kung mayroon kang magagaling umahon katulad ni Baler at MacMac (Galedo) malaki na ang pag-asa manalo,” said the bespectacled Sual, who is also the road commission chairman of Philcycling.
He said his main concern now was to find a consistent third biker to back up both Ravina and Galedo in the succeeding stages of competition.
But for American Vinyl-LPGMA coach Renato Dolosa tomorrow’s stage, 146-km drive from here to the Leyte provincial capital of Tacloban City, could be decisive and result in another major overhaul in both the team and invidual overall standings.
Highlighting Stage 5 is the first KOM Category 4 climb, a winding 350-meter ascent just past the town of Baybay, ideal for uphill specialists like Galedo, Ravina, Lloyd Lucien Reynante and Joel Calderon.
“Malamang magkaroon na naman ng malaking re-shuffle dito,” Dolosa said.
Race director Ric Rodriguez this leg was also the best time for the other big guns like defending champion Santy Barnachea to make their move “because they may be left far behind if they should wait until we reach Luzon.”
“Ngayon na sila tumira katulad ni Santy kasi baka mahuli na sila,” he said.
Bidding for his second major cycling triumph, Ravina, who won Stage 3 to wrest the overall lead, paces the general individual classification category with a cumulative time of 17:22.24 and is nurturing a 30-second lead over second running Oscar Rindole (17:22.24) of V-Mobile. AMV’s Cris Joven (17:23.13) is in third place.
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