SANTY Barnachea returns to action as he seeks a third Ronda Pilipinas title as he spearheads newcomer Team Franzia this year in the March 3 to 18 race.
The 41-year-old Barnachea earned his spot through the first of two Ronda qualifying races in Tarlac City last year to set his return from a two-year absence.
He sets off for the race that starts in Vigan City and ends in Alabang, hoping to add to Ronda titles he won in 2011 and 2015.
“I want to show them that I’m not yet done and I will prove that, just like our sponsor Franzia wine, we get better in time,” said Barnachea in Filipino.
Barnachea will be backed by Leonel Dimaano, Jonggo Tabayoyong, Beejay Nojara, Kim Kenneth Krog, Dennis Gabaldon, Alshyrnel Amiladjid and Mervin Corpuz.
“I have a young and very energetic team and we are optimistic of our chances,” said Barnachea, who will be up against a tough field that includes two-time champion Jan Paul Morales of Navy-Standard Insurance, George Oconer of Go for Gold, CCN Superteam’s Irish Valenzuela, Army-Bicycology Shop’s Cris Joven and Team Bike Xtreme’s Jaybop Pagananawon.
“I’m expecting this race as the toughest for me because I will face younger, stronger opponents. But I hope to make up for it by relying on my experience,” he said.
Valenzuela won the title in 2012, Mark Galedo in 2013 and Reimon Lapaza in 2014.
At stake in the 12-stage race is P1 million.
The race starts with a 40-kilometer Vigan criterium on March 3 and the 155.4km Vigan-Pagudpud Stage Two the next day.
The 223.5km Pagudpud-Tuguegarao Stage Three is set on March 5, followed by a 135.2km Tuguegarao-Isabela Stage Four the next day.
Stage five is a 179.4km Isabela-Nueva Ecija race on March 8 followed by the 111.8km Nueva Ecija-Tarlac Stage Six. A 31.5km Individual Time Trial and 42.14km Team Time Trial Stage Eight are set in Tarlac.
Stage Nine is a 207.2-km Silang-Batangas-Tagaytay race on March 15, followed by the 147.8km Tagaytay-Calaca Stage 10, 92.72km Calaca-Calaca Stage 11 and the 50km Filinvest Alabang criterium for the finale on March 18.
Nueva Ecija, Ilocos Sur, Go for Gold Developmental team, South Luzon and Tarlac Province are also fielding teams in the race presented by LBC and supported by MVP Sports Foundation, CCN, Petron, Versa.ph, 3Q Sports Event Management, Inc., Boy Kanin, Franzia, Standard Insurance, Bike Xtreme, SH+, Guerciotti, Prolite, Green Planet, Maynilad, NLEX Cycling, Lightwater, LBC Foundation and PhilCycling.