LAPU LAPU CITY, Cebu - The first acid test begins for 92 cyclists on Thursday when Ronda Pilipinas 2013 resumes with Stage Four, a 134.2-kilometer trek that starts and ends in the Queen City of the South.
Overall leader Santy Barnachea of Navy-Standard is expected to attract most of the attention for wearing the red jersey for the third straight time. So far he has an aggregate time of nine hours, 54 minutes, and 19 seconds, about two minutes ahead of closest pursuer Tomas Martinez (9:56.20) of Team Tarlac.
Stage Four features one Category 3 and a couple of Category 4 climbs that will put to test the stamina and endurance of Barnachea and the rest of the field.
In Friday’s Stage 5, another pair of Category 4 climb covers the 156-km route that starts in front of the Lapu Lapu City Hall and ends on top of Mountain View Natures Park in Brgy. Busay.
“Dito na simula ng karera,” declared Barnachea, who wrested the overall lead from Ericson Obosa of Roadbike Philippines shortly after Stage 2 from Zamboanga City to Ipil.
Youhtful Rudy Roque of LPGMA-American Vinyl will be another rider to watch after he blazed past everyone to win lap honors in Stage 3 from Pagadian to Iligan. He closed out the Mindanao leg of the P7.5 million event by jumping from 11th to third overall in the standings with clocking of 9:57.13.
“Magiging mahirap na mga susunod na stage pero gagawin ko pa rin ang lahat para maganda ulit ang ipakita ko,” said the 21-year-old Roque, a native of Tipo, Bataan who has so far upstaged his more seasoned teammates such as Irish Valenzuela and Cris Joven.
Valenzuela, last year's runner up and back-to-back King of the Mountain winner, is just lurking behind at No. 5 (9:57.2) along with Joven at No. 9 (9:57.54).