LAPU-LAPU CITY, Cebu—Recharged after a much-deserved rest, three-time champion Santy Barnachea sets out to accomplish his goal of keeping the overall lead in Stage 4 of the 2013 Ronda Pilipinas scheduled to start and end today at Plaza Independencia in Cebu City.
Today’s race takes the 92 riders to a grueling 134.2-kilometer ride in the Southern region of the province, featuring a pair of low-grade climbs 36 km after flag-off and a steeper ascent after the second intermediate sprint in Toledo town going to the finish.
“I was exhausted defending the lead in Mindanao. I feel good going into tomorrow’s (today) race,” said Barnachea, who grabbed the red jersey of leadership from opening-stage winner Ericson Obosa in Stage 2.
The 2011 Ronda champion retained the overall lead after the predominantly flat trip in Stage 3 from Pagadian City to Iligan City on Monday before the two-day respite.
Barnachea, sharp at marking opponents on the road, said he would watch out for title contenders ready to mount an attack and chase them down if necessary.
“I’m not familiar with the route. The most that I can do is prevent them from slipping away unnoticed,” said the 36-year-old Philippine Navy skipper in Filipino.
Mark Galedo, last year’s title holder, is determined to make a move here in the twin Cebu legs if opportunity presents itself and narrow the gap in the overall race. Galedo is 17th overall, 5:03 behind Barnachea.
Tomorrow’s Stage 5 promises to separate the title aspirants from the rest of the field. The 156.8-km trip from Lapu-Lapu City hall ends in a long agonizing uphill trek atop the Mountain View Natures Park in Busay, Cebu.
Also seeking to cut down, if not erase, Barnachea’s advantage are Tomas Martinez of Tarlac (2:01 behind), Rudy Roque of LPGMA-American Vinyl (2:54) and Road Bike’s Ronald Gorantes, fourth overall and three minutes off the pace.
LPGMA skipper Irish Valenzuela was fifth (3:01 behind), Joel Calderon of Smart sixth (3:09), Navy’s George Oconer seventh (3:16), Smart’s Marcelo Felipe eighth (3:19), LPGMA’s Cris Joven ninth (3:35) and Reynaldo Navarro of Hundred Islands 10th (3:38)
After the Cebu stages, the 16-stage bikathon takes another breather on Jan. 19.