Torturous Ronda tour gets going Saturday

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ZAMBOANGA CITY—With a series of punishing climbs that could slow down riders’ pace to a crawl, the 2013 Ronda Pilipinas looks more challenging than before.

Defending champion Mark Galedo and the rest of the field face longer and steeper stretches, including one considered as the hardest in local cycling, when the 16-stage, 23-day race kicks off tomorrow in this city by the sea.

The third edition of local cycling’s showpiece event will cover 2,124.2 kilometers over three weeks with the 96 riders from 12 teams seeking to claim the overall individual title worth P1 million.

Race planners have included four torturous ascents for the first time while laying out several flat routes in the itinerary to give the sprinters their time to shine.

“For the riders, this will be a test of character and determination to be the best as we embark on new race routes from Mindanao to Luzon  never before taken in the past,” said Fernando Araneta, president of Ronda’s chief sponsor LBC Express. “It’s not going to be easy.”

Stage One will be a smooth 134-km ride from Ipil in Zamboanga Sibugay—the first time in Philippine cycling’s 58-year history that the Northern Mindanao peninsula will play host to the Tour.

From Ipil, the riders will pedal to Pagadian City (141 km) while negotiating two moderate climbs going to the finish.

Stage 3 will bring the entourage to Iligan City (136 km), another flat ride, before Ronda takes a two-day break in preparation for a pair of challenging stages in Cebu at the onset of the Sinulog Festival on Jan. 17 and 18.

A day after travelling on the south loop via the uphill terrain in the towns of Carcar and Toledo, the cyclists will taste the first elevated test of the Ronda in Stage 5—a steep 1 km uphill finish in Barangay Busay, Cebu City.

“Here, you will know who the contenders and the pretenders are,” said race director Ric Rodriguez. “If you’re a climber, this is the stage for you.”

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