FILIPINO riders led by former champions Irish Valenzuela, Mark Galedo, and Santy Barnachea will have their hands full against a tough foreign challenge as the Ronda Pilipinas International 2014 unfolds Saturday in a 66-kilometer Stage One criterium race starting and ending at the Quezon City Memorial Circle.
Winners of the first three editions of the event presented by LBC, Valenzuela, Galedo, and Barnachea are expected to lead the way among local teams against seven international squads.
“It's all systems go for Ronda Pilipinas International 2014,” said tournament sports director Moe Chulani in the team presentation ceremonies at the Hotel Rembrandt in Quezon City Friday night.
Valenzuela is teaming up with former Tour champion Alfie Catalan, Alvin Benosa, Reynaldo Navarro, Marvin Tapic, and Daniel Asto in leading the Army team, while Galedo will have Baler Ravina, Cris Joven, Edmundo Nicolas, Jr., Ryan Boots Cayubit, and Mark Julius Bordeos as part of the 7Eleven side.
Barnachea meanwhile, will have a combination of seasoned and youthful ridres in Lloyd Lucien Reynante, Joel Calderon, Jan Paul Morales, Rudy Roque, and George Oconer in towing the Navy-Standard Insurance side in the race held in partnership with MVP Sports Foundation, NLEX, Maynilad, PLDT and Mitsubishi, Versa 2 Way Radio, Standard Insurance, and with Air Asia Zest as minor sponsor.
Roadbike Philippines has tapped two foreign riders in Spain's Edgar Nieto and Great Britain's Daniel Patten to reinforce the local side comprise of Ronnel Hualda, Nelson Martin, Carlos Gasmen and Dominic Perez.
Other local teams competing are PLDT-Maynilad coached by American Chris Allison and composed of under-23 riders Ronald Oranza, Joshua Carino, Rustom Lim, Junrey Navarra, Ronald Lomotos, and captain Mark Bonzo, Team Cycleline Butuan Mindanao, and Team Cebu-Kalit Phl Air Force of ageless warrior Warren Davadilla.
Expected to crowd out the locals in the top team prize worth P600,000 are Netherland's Dutch Global Cycling Team, Matrix Powertag Continental Team of Japan, Taiwan's Gusto Continental Team, the Malaysian national team, Thailand-based CCN Continental Cycling Team, South Korea's Uijeongby City Cycling Team, and Infinite-Singha Cycling Team.
The Malaysians are one of the teams to watch after pocketing silver and bronze medals in the Southeast Asian Games in Myanmar last December
A total of P7.3 million is at stake in the 14-stage race.