SLOTS have been vacated, giving a chance for new riders to compete in Ronda Pilipinas after national team members were ordered to return to the Philippine cycling team to form a squad for Le Tour de Filipinas.
National riders including George Luis Oconer, who also suits up for Go for Gold, and Ronald Lomotos, who competes for Navy, have been told to report to the national squad for the race sanctioned by international cycling body Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI).
Go for Gold coach Eds Hualda said they are now seeking a replacement for Oconer, who topped the qualifying races in Subic Bay and Bacolod City late last year.
Hualda's husband Ronnel will skipper the Go for Gold team also has Jerry Aquino, Jr., Jonel Carcueva, Elmer Navarro, Agustin Queremit, Ryan Cayubit and Ismael Gorospe.
"Our team was founded on the principles of giving our national and elite level athletes opportunities to develop through additional training and races, both here and abroad and develop the next generation of elite athletes through our junior development program," said Hualda.
Le Tour de Filipinas featuring 13 foreign continental teams and two local squads is set Feb. 21 to 24, while the 12-team Ronda is set February 4 to March 4.
"As always, we will support PhilCycling's program and anything that will be done for flag and country," said Ronda project director and LBC Sports Development head Moe Chulani.
"And rest assured that we will be relentless in our pursuit of discovering and producing future talents from the far-flung areas in the country."
The other teams seeing action are Bike Extreme, Neopolitan, Ilocos Sur, Iloilo, Mindanao, South Luzon, Kinetix Lab-Army, Zambales, Salic and One Tarlac.
The main race starts on Feb. 4 with two stages in Ilocos Sur and will have stops at Angeles (Feb. 8), Subic (Feb. 9), Lucena, Quezon (Feb. 12), Pili, Camarines Norte (Feb. 14 and 16), Daet (Feb. 17), Paseo in Sta. Rosa, Laguna (Feb. 19), Tagaytay and Batangas (Feb. 20), Calamba and Antipolo (Feb. 21) before wrapping up with a pair of stages in Iloilo City (March 2, 3 and 4).
The top rider in Ronda gets P1 million courtesy of presentor LBC, MVP Sports Foundation, Petron, Mitsubishi, Versa.ph, Victory Liner, Maynilad, Standard Insurance, CCN, Bike Xtreme, NLEX, PhilCycling and 3Q Sports Event Management.