ANGELES CITY—Rudy Roque and his Navy-Standard Insurance teammates should take control of the three most cruel stages in the LBC Ronda Pilipinas 2017 to claim the ultimate prize in local cycling’s showpiece event.
The Navymen are out to hurdle two of those grinding routes in back-to-back fashion beginning in tomorrow’s rugged third stage from Angeles City to Subic Bay Freeport.
Fresh from a two-day break, the 96 surviving riders from 12 teams will tackle the hilly Bataan National Park on the latter half of the 137-kilometer route in Bagac and Morong towns before sprinting home to the former US Naval base.
“This is our first big test in the Tour,” said Roque in Filipino after retaining the overall individual lead following a pair of flat, high-speed races in Ilocos Sur. “We’ll be looking to maintain the lead.”
The Subic to Subic fourth stage on Thursday practically passes through the same uphill route in Stage 3 where they are bound to ride against the wind on the way back.
One thing going for Roque, a prized discovery by two-time Tour champ Renato Dolosa, besides the support of his team is the fact that the 25-year-old sprint ace hails from Tibo, Hermosa, Bataan, and knows the terrain better than anyone else.
Backstopping Roque in his bid for the P1-million general classification purse are fellow Navymen Ronald Lomotos, 2009 Tour champ Joel Calderon, team captain Lloyd Reynante, rookie Archie Cardana and Jan Paul Morales, winner in two of Ronda’s three legs last year.
The last arduous test they should hurdle is the trip from Lucena City to Pili, Camarines Sur, in Stage 5 on Feb. 12, a 251km ride with a short but steep ascent in Atimonan presenting stern test.
Overall, Roque leads Lomotos by 20 seconds. Cardana remained third (41 seconds behind), Ismael Grospe Jr. of Go For Gold lay fourth (2:28), Pagnanawon kept fifth (3:41) followed by Navy’s Jay Lampawog at sixth (3:53), Ryan Serapio of Ilocos Sur (3:54) and Jonel Carcueva of Go For Gold (3:57).