Navy rider a marked man
LUCENA CITY—As the roads in the LBC Ronda Pilipinas 2017 stretch farther, the burden of keeping the red jersey is becoming heavier for Rudy Roque.
The shrewd rider from Navy-Standard Insurance sets out to protect his dwindling advantage in the overall individual race as local cycling’s showpiece event swings over to Southern Luzon beginning on Sunday.
“I’m a marked man since I took this jersey,” said Roque in Filipino. “But I’m still glad to be on top.”
Roque remained in front of the field after safely crossing the line with the contenders at the end of the hilly fourth stage in Subic Bay.
The 25-year-old climber from Hermosa, Bataan, will wear the red shirt, Ronda’s symbol of leadership, for the fourth straight leg in Sunday’s 251-kilometer Stage 5 from this vibrant city in Quezon province to Pili, Camarines Sur.
It will be the longest and most dragging stage in the
14-lap bikathon backed by MVP Sports Foundation, Petron, Mitsubishi, Versa.ph and Maynilad, made harder by the famed “Tatlong Eme,” a steep serpentine climb in Atimonan, Quezon.
“The pressure is getting stronger in every stage. I’m confident that I can keep the lead with the help of my teammates,” said Roque.
So far in control of the team general classification, the Navymen are looking at the Lucena-Pili trip as a crucial decider in the Tour.
“If we’re still on top after this stage, there’s a big chance we might go all the way,” said Roque.
There’s reason to believe this forecast since four Standard Insurance riders are in the Top 5, with Roque holding a gap of
1 minute and 30 seconds over teammate Jan Paul Morales.
Navy’s Ronald Lomotos slipped to third overall, 2:18 behind, followed by surprise contender Ryan Serapio of Team Ilocos Sur (3:52), Navy’s Jay Lampawog (3:57), Reynaldo Navarro of Kinetix-Lab Philippine Army (4:06), Joshua Mari Bonifacio of Go For Gold (4:13), Navy’s Daniel Ven Carino (4:20), Stage 4 winner Cris Joven of Army (4:33) and Ismael Grospe Jr. of Go For Gold (5:28).
Quickly recovering from a rough ride in the opening stage in Vigan, Morales won the second and third stages before nearly achieving a hat trick in Stage 4 to vault into contention.
The national team track star was a dominant force in the previous Ronda after capturing two of the three legs last year.
Joven denied Morales a third consecutive stage victory on Thursday after narrowly beating the 31-year-old from Calumpang, Marikina, at the line in a wild bunch sprint.