Barnachea ready for Ronda Pilipinas ‘heat’
LUCENA CITY—Being a three-time winner of the fabled cycling Tour, Santy Barnachea knows exactly the demands that come with wearing the overall leader’s jersey.
Barnachea, the foxy captain of Philippine Navy Standard Insurance, is nevertheless determined to protect the fort at the resumption of the 14-stage Ronda Pilipinas 2014.
“I’ve been in this situation countless times before. The heat will be on me,” said the 37-year-old pride of Umingan, Pangasinan.
From this thriving Quezon provincial capital, Friday’s Stage 6 (153 kilometers) will take the 71 surviving riders to the shores of Laguna de Bay before they scale a pair of torturous low-grade climbs in Mabitac town and Teresa, Rizal, going to Antipolo City.
Barnachea, who won the Tour in 2002 and 2006 and Ronda 2011, will be in the red jersey he took from Cris Joven of 7-Eleven Continental Cycling Team after the first big climbing test of the multistage race in Atimonan, Quezon, Wednesday.
“It’s too early, but I have no choice but to wear it,” said Barnachea while fixing his bike during the Tour’s rest day Thursday.
Mark Galedo, a two-time Tour champion, jumped from eighth to second overall, five seconds behind Barnachea, after making a bold move of clinching the dreaded Atimonan climb and bolting out of the pack of contenders in Stage 5 won by Taiwanese rider Feng Chun-kai.
“We’re entering the second half of the Tour and I like my chances,” said Galedo, the 2012 Ronda titleholder.
After the Antipolo City leg, the next two days will favor sprinters, who are expected to shine in Stage 7 (172 km) from Valenzuela City to Tarlac City and Stage 8 (197.3 km) going to Dagupan City before the 16-day bikathon reaches its crescendo in Baguio City starting Monday.
Three mountain stages have been calendared in the country’s summer capital where the real contenders and the pretenders will be known and the champion could be crowned.
Riemon Lapaza of Cycleline Butuan Mindanao wound up third overall, 19 seconds off the pace, after five laps in Southern Luzon, while Ronald Oranza, last year’s second runnerup, climbed from 10th to fourth, 44 seconds back.
Mark Julius Bordeos of 7-Eleven (57 seconds behind), Marcelo Felipe of Roadbike Philippines (4:01), Vicmar Vicente of Cycleline Butuan (4:09), Army’s Reynaldo Navarro (4:34), Navy’s George Oconer (4:40) and Japan’s Daiki Yasuhara (4:49) completed the magic 10.
Defending champion Irish Valenzuela of Philippine Army was 8:29 adrift from Barnachea at 15th and vowed to cut the gap as the race, presented by LBC and backed by MVP Sports Foundation, Maynilad, NLEX, PLDT, Petron, Mitsubishi, Standard Insurance and Air Asia, reaches its climax.
“There’s still hope and it’s still a wide-open race. My target is to get into the top 3 and let’s see what happens from there,” said Valenzuela.
So far, Filipino riders have been ahead in the races with only two foreign cyclists—Yasuhara and Frenchman Peter Pouly, who is 6:14 off the pace—in strong contention for overall supremacy.
The international edition of local cycling’s biggest race ends Feb. 16 with a criterium in Marikina City.
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