LBC-MVP Sports Foundation riders headed by George Oconer and Rustom Lim vow to make up for lost time and give fancied Navy-Standard Insurance a tougher fight when the LBC Ronda Pilipinas 2016 concludes with the Luzon Leg starting on Saturday at Paseo de Santa Rosa and ending in Baguio City on April 9.
Oconer came into the Visayas Leg last month as one of the heavy favorites to contend for the title being a runner-up to last year's winner Santy Barnachea. But the veteran rider failed to meet expectations and finished a dismal 11th overall.
The son of former two-time Olympian Norberto, however, is going all out to make up for his disappointing performance in the Visayas leg.
"I will give it my best to do better this time," said Oconer in Filipino.
In contrast, Lim had a better performance as he finished third overall in the Visayas after he topped the fifth and final stage in Roxas City that installed him as one of the early favorites to foil Navy's sweep bid.
Another LBC-MVPSF rider to watch is Ronnilan Quita, an unheralded rider from San Jose, Tarlac who came out of nowhere to finish second behind 2009 Tour champion Joel Calderon of Navy in Stage Four in Roxas City.
"I'm working hard to really win a stage and make a name for myself," said the 21-year-old Quita, who is using his cycling career as a way to finish his education which he discontinued after Grade Six due to poverty.
LBC-MVPSF will be hard pressed, though, as Navy is bent on sweeping this year's LBC Ronda, the country's biggest cycling race.
Thanks to their discipline and teamwork, Navy dominated the first two legs with Jan Paul Morales topping the Mindanao Leg last February and Ronald Oranza reigning supreme in the Visayas last month.
And it looks like there is no stopping Navy from continuing its juggernaut.
"That's the reason we're working and training hard, to win," said Navy team playing team captain Lloyd Lucien Reynante.
After the Paseo Stage One criterium, the race continues with the Stage Two individual time trial (ITT) that will unfurl in Talisay City in Batangas and end in scenic Tagaytay City the next day.
Antipolo City will host Stage Three with a criterium on April 6 before LBC Ronda closes with a Stage Four road race from Dagupan City, Pangasinan to Baguio on April 8 and another criterium on Baguio on April 9.
The event, organized by LBC Express, is sanctioned by PhilCycling and sponsored by Manny V. Pangilinan Sports Foundation, Petron and Versa Radio-Tech 1 Corp. with Maynilad and NLEX as minor sponsors.