ANGELES CITY - Navy-Standard Insurance bet Rudy Roque was just in his teens when two-time Tour champion Renato Dolosa told him he has the potential to be a cycling a star.
Fast forward to the present and the the 25-year-old is making the 1992 and 1995 Tour king look good.
Roque came out of nowhere and blew away everybody with a pair of second place finishes in Ilocandia to seize the solo individual lead of the LBC Ronda Pilipinas 2017.
Roque said he has Dolosa to thank for for inspiring him to dream big.
"He told me I could be somebody someday, he was the one who opened the doors for me," said Roque in Filipino referring to Dolosa, who travelled to the mountainous barangay of Tibo, Bataan to convince the then teenager to ride for American Vynil-LPGMA team in the inaugural edition of Ronda.
From there, Roque has actually blossomed and even placed an impressive ninth in the first staging of this anuual race and consistently figured in the Top 20 in the next editions.
After two stages, Roque is on top with an aggregate time of five hours, three minutes and three seconds, leading Navy teammates Ronald Lomotos and Archie Cardana, who are at Nos. 2 and 3 with clockings of 5:03:23 and 5:03:31, respectively.
He is more than five minutes ahead of the big guns headed by last year's champion and fellow Navyman Jan Paul Morales, who is at No. 17 with 5:08:11, and Kinetix Lab-Army's Cris Joven, who is at No. 18 with 5:08:18.
Roque said the next three stages - all featuring uphill climbs - will make or break his campaign.
The 137-km Angeles-Subic Stage Three on Wednesday and the 111-km Subic-Subic Stage Four the next day will both go around the mountains where the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant is located.
The Lucena-Pili Stage Five on Sunday is the longest stage this year, stretching 251 kms that included a pass at the Tatlong Eme in Atimonan, Quezon.
"If we're still on top after those three stages, then I can say we have a strong chance of winning it all this year," said Roque.
Pagnanawon, looking to make his father, 1986 Tour champion Rolando, proud, leapt from No. 7 to No. 5 with 5:06:44 while Jay Lampawog, another young turk from Navy, is at No. 6 with 5:06:56.
Completing the top 10 cast were 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 continued to dominate the team race with a total time of 20:17:32, a whopping nine minutes ahead of Go for Gold's 20:26:49 and Kinetix Lab Army's 20:30:49.
This race, the biggest in the country today, is staking 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.