Ronda hits road today
Team time trial sends 15-leg bikathon on the wayBy June Navarro
Philippine Daily Inquirer
GENERAL SANTOS CITY—Humble and unassuming, Santy Barnachea has been carrying himself this way before every start of a multistage race.
But the Navyman from Umingan, Pangasinan, had always unleashed the raging warrior in him in three victorious bikathon campaigns.
As expected, Barnachea will command attention as the defending champion at the start of the 2012 LBC Ronda Pilipinas today featuring a team time trial in Sarangani province.
The 16 teams of six cyclists each will be flagged off one at a time for the 20.6-kilometer ride that will start and finish at the Sarangani provincial capitol, a smooth 15-minute drive from this city famous for its tuna and its favorite son, boxing superstar Manny Pacquiao.
Teams will get going in five-minute intervals in the race against the clock with the fastest rider of the winning squad automatically wearing the red jersey, Ronda’s symbol of leadership, in tomorrow’s Stage 1 of the 15-leg Tour.
“It will be harder this time. There will be eyes watching me in every stage,” said Barnachea, 36, who will ride for the Philippine Navy in his quest for a fourth Tour victory.
Barnachea, one of the few champions who never won a single lap in his historic feat last year, was out of the radar in the first eight stages of mostly flat roads before striking hard in the mountains of the 12-leg race and bagging the P1-million individual winner’s purse.
He’s the only three-time Tour champion in modern times, duplicating Antonio Arzala’s rare achievement during the race’s formative years in the 1950s.
Joel Calderon of V-Mobile/Nueva Ecija, LPGMA/American Vinyl captain Irish Valenzuela and Rudy Roque, Baler Ravina and Mark Galedo of Road Bike, Philippine U-23 team’s George Oconer, Philippine Army’s Alfie Catalan and Lloyd Reynante of Navy are his chief challengers for the individual crown.
Ronda race director Ric Rodriguez said the top rider of the second best team in today’s TTT will don the blue jersey (points classification leader or sprint) while the fastest cyclist from the third-ranked squad will don the white jersey (king of the mountain).
The majority of the stages feature short ascents with the toughest stretches coming in Stage 12 from Lingayen, Pangasinan, to Baguio City, a 96.7 km climb to 1,500 feet above sea level.
Majority of the coaches though marked the 27.4 km individual time trial from Tuba, Benguet, to the City of Pines in Stage 13 as the decider of the 21-day race from Mindanao to the eastern parts of the Visayas to Northern Luzon.
The last time a Tour this long was held was in 2003, when Arnel Quirimit won what was then called the Tour Pilipinas.
“We have to conserve energy going to Baguio,” said LPGMA-American Vinyl coach Renato Dolosa, a two-time Tour champion himself who steered the multiawarded cycling club to the team championship last year. “But we also need to build a good lead in the early stages.”
Other teams competing are Team Mindanao, Cebu, Philippine Marines, Philippine Air Force, Tarlac, Northern Luzon/Ilocos Sur, Central Luzon, East Pangasinan, West Pangasinan and Bicol.
Thursday’s Stage 1 is a 183.3-km race from Gen San to Kiamba and back.