A HOMETOWN hero, a group of seasoned veterans and some new faces battle it out for the title in the LBC Ronda Pilipinas 2016 firing off on Saturday in Butuan City.
Local bet Reimon Lapaza tries to recapture the Ronda Pilipinas title he won two years ago.
"Our familiarity of the course will surely help us. We need to take advantage of it to have a chance here," said Lapaza, who leads an 11-man team entered by the host known as the "Timber City of the South."
Navy-Standard Insurance will be led by veteran Lloyd Lucien Reynante, Joel Calderon, Ronald Oranza and Jan Paul Morales, while LBC has Ronnel Hualda as skipper.
"We came here to win," said Reynante, whose team trained and raced in Hong Kong.
"This is what we prepared for," said Hualda.
Stage One will go around the city and pass by Agusan del Sur, followed by a criterium the next day still in Butuan.
The race goes to Cagayan de Oro for Stage Three, another criterium, on Tuesday.
Ronda will then move on to scenic Dahilayan, Manolo Fortich next for an Individual Time Trial Thursday before a Stage Five criterium in Malaybalay, Bukidnon.
Ronda has also included a mountain bike race for each leg.
"LBC Sports Devt Corp. feels everyone should have the chance to join Ronda Pilipinas 2016, which is the fourth biggest race in the world in terms of distance covered, not just the elite riders," said LBC Ronda sports development head Moe Chulani.
"That's why Ronda Pilipinas 2016 will be a bigger and better event where we will have everyone including the executives and amateurs joining us," he added.
The Visayas leg starts with a criterium in Bago City on March 11, Stage Two criterium in Iloilo City on March 13, a Stage Three road race from Ilolilo to Roxas City on March 15, with a criterium and an ITT in Roxas on March 17.
The Luzon event starts with a criterium at Paseo in Sta. Rosa, Laguna on April 3, followed by an ITT from Talisay to Tagaytay the next day, criterium in Antipolo City on April 6, a road race from Dagupan to Baguio on April 8 and a criterium for Stage Five.
Ronda organizers will still accept entries an hour before the start of the race presented by LBC and LBC Express, 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.