FOLLOWING the success of the 2016 Ronda Pilipinas, a sports patron from Nueva Ecija is asking LBC organizers and other major cycling events to stage a race in the cycling hotbed.
It has been four years since the province played host to a major cycling tournament, after Ronda Pilipinas held stages 11 and 12 there, and former Formula 3 champion driver Renan Morales said it's high time the multi-stage cycling event returns to the province.
"Gusto ko nga po sanang maibalik natin sa Nueva Ecija yung ruta ng Ronda Pilipinas. Napakalaki po ng lugar namin at maraming ruta na pwedeng i-traverse dito," said Morales, the 2005 Ferrari Challenge Cup Asia champion.
"Syempre, marami rin ditong siklista na sumusuporta sa Ronda Pilipinas. Yun po sana ay matimbang rin ng mga officials ng LBC para mabalik ang major cycling rito. Miss na miss na po ng mga kababayan natin rito ang high level cycling races. Sana po kahit isang stage eh maibalik rito sa amin sa Nueva Ecija, [at] makakaasa po sila ng mainit na suporta at malaking kontribusyon mula sa mga Novo Ecijano," he added.
Being a predominantly agricultural province, Nueva Ecija folks are born with the innate talent to ride their bicycles, Morales pointed out.
"Yang motor na yan at mga biskleta na yan, mga means of transportation po namin yan dito sa Nueva Ecija. Bata pa po kami, kami po ay mga natural na siklista," he said.
Morales also bared that he intends to come up with a competitive team of Novo Ecijano riders starting in the 2017 edition of Ronda Pilipinas, which is supported by LBC, LBC Sports Development, MVP Sports Foundation, Petron, Mitsubishi and sanctioned by Philcycling and coverage supporters Wheeltek Motors, UB3 Commercial, BL Resort and Hotel and Hapag-Kainan sa Hardin Restaurant.
Winner of 8 Formula 3 titles, Morales believes that with proper funding and support, Novo Ecijanos can again excel in cycling like how Armando Catalan (1988 Marlboro Tour champion) and Joel Calderon (2009 Le Tour de Filipinas) dominated road races before.
"Ako in my own way, I will support our riders here and build a team and promote Ronda Pilipinas and I am sure, next season (2017), mayroon na pong sariling team ang Nueva Ecija," Morales guaranteed.
Ronda Pilipinas 2016 runner-up Rustom Lim expressed elation, saying it's about time cycling returns to Nueva Ecija.
"Maganda po yan. Matagal na pong walang karera sa amin. Sana nga po magawan ng paraan. Sure po yan na maraming manonood sa mga karera sa mga lansangan. Cycling po kasi ang number one sport sa amin," said Lim, winner of two stages in the last Ronda including the dreaded Dagupan to Baguio City Luzon Stage 4.
Another rider, Gerard Valdez, son of legendary cycling great Placido Valdez, is also throwing his full support to the call.
"Sana po matuloy 'yan. Mag-homecoming ang cycling sa amin sa Nueva Ecija," he said.
Organizers of Ronda Pilipinas, led by executive project director Moe Chulani and race director Jingo Hervas, are now evaluating the stages and plans for next year's Ronda Pilipinas.
"We plan to come up with bigger races next year - as usual. And suggestions are accepted," said Chulani, who bared that Ronda Pilipinas will continue the five stages per leg format around Mindanao, Visayas and Luzon they introduced this year.