Ronda Visayas stages under wayBy June Navarro
Philippine Daily Inquirer
ORMOC CITY—The big guns of the 2012 LBC Ronda Pilipinas are keeping a low profile, reserving their strength for the tougher grind ahead.
Defending champion Santy Barnachea of Philippine Navy-Standard Insurance has opted to stay out of the podium in the first week of the 21-day, 15-stage race, hinting that he would only make a move in the critical stages.
Joel Calderon of V-Mobile, last year’s runner-up, has also tried to avoid the spotlight, riding leisurely with the peloton in the first four stages which featured long, flat stretches and six mid-grade climbs.
Philippine team anchor George Oconer, the reigning sprint king who placed third behind Calderon in the Ronda inaugurals, has also patiently waited for the perfect time to attack.
“It’s still a long way to go,” said Barnachea in Filipino, who captured an unprecedented third Tour crown last year without winning a single lap.
After five legs in local cycling’s biggest and richest race, Barnachea is in 15th spot, 3:10 behind overall leader Baler Ravina. Oconer is 17th, 4:05 back, and Calderon 19th, trailing by 4:10.
“They’ve been guarding me since the first stage as if I’m the leader,” added Barnachea, an all-round rider from Umingan, Pangasinan, during yesterday’s rest day. “It could have been worse if I’m wearing red (the jersey worn by the overall leader).”
Also conserving their energy for the crucial stages are contenders Arnel Quirimit of Western Pangasinan (9th, 1:54 behind), Metro Manila’s Ronald Gorantes (10th, 2:03), Lloyd Lucien Reynante of Philippine Navy (25th overall, 6:47) and LPGMA-American Vinyl team captain Irish Valenzuela (32nd, 9:14).
Barnachea said he would again float with the peloton in today’s Stage 5, a flat, 146.6 km route to Tacloban City as Ronda Pilipinas tackles its Visayan schedule.
Oconer said he would test himself in the 209.2 km trip to Lucena City which will be highlighted by a steep climb in the Atimonan national park, famous for a chain of sharp uphill turns known as “Tatlong Eme.”
Tags: 2012 LBC Ronda Pilipinas