QC Circle criterium kicks off Ronda Pilipinas 2014 tour
MANILA, Philippines –Spiced up by a strong international flavor, the Ronda Pilipinas 2014 could easily turn out to be the most challenging multistage race in the country in years.
A field of 84 riders, 44 of them foreigners, is gunning for glory in local cycling’s grandest event—a 16-day bik-athon that will cover 1,776.1 kilometers of flat lands and mountainous terrain.
Defending champion Irish Valenzuela, now wearing the colors of Philippine Army, sets out as the bookmakers’ pick in Saturday’s opening stage, a brisk 66 km criterium at Quezon Memorial Circle.
The former LPGMA-American Vinyl standout will race alongside past winners Mark Galedo of 7-Eleven Continental Cycling Team and three-time Tour champion Santy Barnachea of Philippine Navy as well as a hoard of contenders from seven foreign teams.
“I saw the entire course. We’ll be facing a new challenge and it’s going to be more difficult,” said Valenzuela, a two-time Ronda King of the Mountains before clinching the biggest prize last year.
Race planners drafted an even more punishing route this year, one that will take riders to tough stretches in Southern Luzon, the flat lands of Central Luzon and the decisive mountain stages in the Cordilleras.
Two more stages that will end in Angeles City and Subic are on the itinerary before the Ronda, which offers P7.3 million in cash prizes, winds up in Marikina with a hilly 60 km criterium on Feb. 16.
“From among the races that we’ve made, this, by far, is the most challenging,” said race director Ric Rodriguez.
“The foreigners are strong but Filipino riders should have the advantage due to their familiarity of the roads,” he added.
Heading the foreign challenge are the Netherlands’ Dutch Global Cycling Team, CNN Cycling Team, Japan’s Matrix Powertag, Infinite-Singha Cycling Team, Taiwan’s Team Gusto, the Malaysian national team and South Korea’s Uijeongbu City Cycling Team.
The other local squads are Roadbike Philippines, Team Cycleline Butuan Mindanao, Cebu-Kalit Philippine Air Force and PLDT-Maynila Pro Cycling.