RUDY Roque of Navy-Standard Insurance looks hold maintain the lead as LBC Ronda Pilipinas 2017 action resumes on Wednesday with the 137-kilometer Stage Three from Angeles City in Pampanga to Subic Bay in Zambales.
The 25-year-old Roque is on top after second-place finishes in the first two stages in Vigan, Ilocos Sur, with an aggregate time of five hours, three minutes and three seconds.
Roque is less than a minute ahead of teammates Ronald Lomotos (5:03:23)and Archie Cardana (5:03:44).
"If I'm still on top after three stages, I think I'll have a strong chance of winning here," said Roque, whose best finish was sixth in the inaugural Ronda six years ago.
Roque and the rest of the 96-man field will race on the mountains stages in Morong, Bataan in Stages Three and Four.
The 251-kilometer Stage Four is set on Sunday from Lucena City to Pili, Camarines Sur.
Expected to give Roque a fierce chase are last year's winner Jan Paul Morales of Navy, Cris Joven of Kinetix Lab-Army and Jaybop Pagananwon of Bike Extrme.
Pagnanawon, son of 1986 Tour champion Rolando, is running fifth in 5:06:44 and is expected to make a big move.
Morales made up for his subpar Stage One effort by reigning supreme in the Stage Two criterium in Vigan to jump from No. 23 to No. 17, a little over five minutes off the pace.
"If I could eat up some minutes in the next few stages, then I will go for it," said Morales, who is seeking to become the first back-to-back winner of Ronda. "But Rudy (Roque) remained there, I might as well support him and help him win."
Joven is at No. 18 with a 5:08:18 total clocking, and eager to close the gap.
"My goal is just to get closer to the top and see what happens," said Joven, a 31-year-old native of Iriga, Camarines Sur.
Go for Gold's Ismael Grospe, Jr. is at No. 4 with a time of 5:05:31 while Jay Lampawog is at No. 6 with 5:06:56, followed by Ilocos Sur's Ryan Serapio (5:06:57), Go for Gold's Jonel Carcueva (5:07:00), Quitoy (5:07:01) and Go for Gold's Orlie Villanueva (5:07:07).
Navy leads the team race with a total time of 20:17:32, nine minutes ahead of Go for Gold's 20:26:49 and Kinetix Lab Army's 20:30:49 in the race offering P1 million to 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.