SANTY Barnachea starts his bid for a third title starting with the LBC Ronda Pilipinas 2017 qualifying race on Sunday at the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority in Zambales City.
Army is fielding a team headed by Merculio Ramos, Alfie Catalan, Cris Joven, Mark Julius Bordeos and Alvin Benosa, while talented new Navy recruit Jay Lampawog will try to join his teammates who dominated last year's event.
Barnachea, winner of the first and fifth editions of the event that is on its sixth year, is part of the 85-man field for the one-stage, 101-kilometer qualifier starting at the Lighthouse Hotel and ending at the Forest View Park inside SBMA.
The top 30 cyclists will qualify for the main race set Feb. 4 to March 4 next year, which offers P1 million to the individual champion.
Another 30 spots will be up for grabs in the second qualifier set Dec. 4 in Bacolod City.
Already in the field for the main event are 72 riders who participated last year, among them Navy mainstays Lloyd Lucien Reynante, Rudy Roque, Ronald Oranza, Joel Calderon and Jan Paul Morales.
LBC Ronda will officially start on Feb. 4 with Ilocos Sur-Ilocos Norte Stage One followed by the Ilocos Sur Stage Two criterium the next day.
Stage Three is from Angeles City, Pampanga to Subic on Feb. 8 followed by the Naga-San Jose Stage Four individual time trial on Feb. 14, Pili to Daet Stage Five on Feb. 16 and Daet to Unisan Stage Six on Feb. 17.
Stage Seven is in Sta. Rosa, Laguna on Feb. 19 followed by the Tagaytay-Batangas-Tagaytay Stage Eight on Feb. 19, Calamba to Antipolo Stage Nine on Feb. 23 and Antipolo Stage 10 criterium on Feb. 24.
Iloilo City hosts Stages 11 on March 3 and Stage 12 the next day in the event backed by Mitsubishi, Petron, ASG Group, Dans360 and Donen and sanctioned by the national cycling federation PhlCycling.
"We're expecting a bigger and more exciting race this year and what a way to start it with this star-studded qualifying race in Subic," said LBC Ronda race director Jingo Hervas.
Interested riders and teams may visit Ronda's official Facebook page.