NAVY-Standard Insurance seeks to duplicate its strong performance last year as it competes without Ronald Oranza and two other top riders when the LBC Ronda Pilipinas 2017 fires off on Saturday in Vigan.
Oranza, who topped one of the three legs last year, is skipping the 14-stage race along with El Joshua Carino and Mark John Camingao because they need to undergo seaman’s training.
"They couldn't join because they are under basic seaman course," said Navy skipper Lloyd Lucien Reynante.
"But I'm still confident of our chances this year because we have a combination of experience and youth," added the 38-year-old rider.
The Navymen will be spearheaded by Jan Paul Morales, winner of two legs last edition, ageless Joel Calderon, the 2009 Tour King, and the equally battle-tested duo of Rudy Roque and Ronald Lomotos.
Reynante also has promising cyclists Jay Lampawog, Daniel Ven Carino and Archie Cardana, all under 23 years old.
"I see a lot of promise with my under-23 riders, they pull off a lot of surprises," said Reynante.
The other teams seeing action are Army Kinetix Lab, Go for Gold, Bike Extreme, Ilocus Sur, Mindanao Sultan Kudarat, Iloilo, NCR RC Cola, Tarlac, Neopolitan, South Luzon and Zambales.
The race 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).
"We're excited this year because we have a lot of new faces," said LBC Ronda project director Moe Chulani.
A P1 million prize awaits the champion courtesy of presentor LBC and in partnership with MVP Sports Foundation, Petron, Mitsubishi, Versa.ph, Partas, Maynilad, Standard Insurance, CCN, Bike Xtreme, NLEX, PhilCycling and 3Q Sports Event Management.