After a grueling 192 kilometer trek from Santiago, Isabela on March 19, a more relaxed riders originally called the “boys of summer” will cruise to the finish line the next day in the finale of the 11th edition of the LBC Ronda Pilipinas.
The longest stage of the 10 leg race that starts at the tip of Luzon in Sorsogon this Friday where the riders take the western side of the Philippines biggest island giving them a breath taking view of the Pacific Ocean.
Paul Rillorta of the Baguio City Sports and Development Office said that the city will bankroll the two-day, one night stay of the riders for the last two stages that may eventually decide who goes home the champion.
“The riders will arrive on March 19 afternoon after arriving from Santiago,” said Rillorta which missed last year’s edition due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Then it will be the relaxed criterium the next day where the riders take Session Road like the Champs Ellyses ride of the world’s most popular bike race, the Tour d’France.
“Then they will be at the Baguio Country Club for the awards and cocktails to culminate the tour,” he added.
This time, the riders will attack Baguio coming from the western side using the Ambuklao Road that will give them a majestic view of Luzon’s highest mountain – Mount Pulag en-route to the coldest city in the country sitting nearly 5,000 feet above sea level.
It could be the curtain call for Santy Barnachea as he embarks on leading Excellent Noodles with his leg of steel that has won him accolades in the past. The 47-year old from Umingan, Pangasinan as he teams up with two time LBC Ronda Pilipinas winner Jan Paul Morales.
The former captain of defending champion Navy Standard team, skippers the team with Barnachea as wingman. The squad composed of Ryan Tugawin, Mervin Corpuz, Bonijoe Martin, Joshua Bonifacio and the pair of 23-under riders Mar Francis Sudario and Joshua Pascual.
“For me, he still has what it takes to win again and he isn’t a many-time champion for nothing,” said the 36-year-old Morales, in an LBC Ronda Pilipinas release.
The Baguio criterium will serve as a swan song to one of the most decorated cyclists of the 21st century and in the pursuit of the lion share of the P3.5 million including the top purse worth P1 million for the individual champion and the P200,000 for the team crown.
Twelve other teams will try to deny Excellent Noodles from raising the team trophy including defending champion Navy Standard Insurance.
It will be recalled that Navy took the team crown in 2020 edition right before the Covid-19 pandemic struck.
Other teams seeing action are: Philippine Army, Team Nueva Ecija, Dreyna, Eagle Cement, Champ Café, Bike Kings Laguna, Vantage Ilocos Norte, VPharma, Team Quezon Province, Team Ilocos Sur and Go for Gold.
Bankrolled by LBC Express, Inc., MVP Sports Foundation, Quad X, Twin Cycle Gear, Standard Insurance, Print2Go, Elves Bicycles, Elitewheels, Orome, Maynilad and Garmin, Petron, Boy Kanin, Green Planet Bikeshop, Prolite, Black Mamba, Lightwater and LBC Foundation and recognized by PhilCycling and Games and Amusements Board, it will start with the Stage One Individual Time Trial and Stage Two Team Time Trial on March 11 in Sorsogon.
From there, the riders will go to Legazpi for the 163-kilometer Stage Three on March 12 and 189.1km Legazpi to Daet Stage Four on March 13.
It will be followed by the 212km Daet-Lucena Stage Five on March 14 and 157.4km Lucena-Tagaytay Stage Six on March 15.
After a one-day break, the race will wind up with the 180.4km Tarlac-Baler Stage Seven on March 17, 174.4km Baler-Echgue, Isabela Stage Eight on March 18, 193.2km Santiago, Isabela-Baguio Stage Nine on March 19 and Baguio City Stage 10 criterium on March 20.