BAGUIO CITY - Santy Barnachea of Navy-Standard Insurance turned the individual time trial and final criterium race into his ceremonial coronation as he reigned supreme in the the Ronda Pilipinas 2015 presented by LBC that ended in this mountaintop city on Friday.
Ranged against younger foes, Barnachea more than held his own throughout the six-day, eight-stage race to win his second Ronda title and fourth major title overall at 38, an age when most cyclists have long retired.
At the end of the gruelling race that covered about 1,000 kilometers of flat roads and mountain passes, Barnachea won with more than six minutes to spare with a total clocking of 24 hours, two minutes and 44 seconds to become the first multiple winner in this annual race considered the biggest and richest in Asia.
He took home the P1 million top prize.
The proud son of Umingan, Pangasinan also became the first rider to win four major tour titles, having ruled the 2002 Tour de Calabarzon, the 2006 Padyak Pinoy and Ronda's inaugural edition four years ago.
This one though was the most special of all.
"Going into the race I only expected to finish in the top five because I was looking at (Mark) Galedo and (Ronald) Oranza to win it," said Barnachea, who was met by wife Michelle and parents Santiago and Virginia at the finish line.
"This is extra special for me because this is my hardest race among the four because of my age," he added.
Another Navyman, Jan Paul Morales, took the 8.8 individual time trial Stage 7 that ended at the peak of the Santo Tomas mountain in 28.32 minutes, besting PSC-PhilCycling's Junrey Navarra (28.46) and fast-rising Roel Quitoy of Negros (29.31).
In the eighth and final lap, it was the turn of Oranza of Navy to take the 74.5-km criterium in 1:41.32, edging 7-Eleven's Dominic Perez (1:41.35) and Navarra (1:41.35) and emerge with the most stage wins after ruling the Calamba-Atimonan Stage 2.
In the end, the race belonged to Barnachea.
After mulling retirement before the race, Barnachea is now thinking of racing one final time next year.
"Maybe one more," he said.
PSC-PhilCycling's George Oconer, Jr. took second place and the P500,000 purse that went with it after amassing a total time of 24:09.41 while Morales took third and the P250,000 prize with a clocking of 24:10.22.
Rounding up the top 10 were Navy's Lloyd Lucien Reynante (24:14.45), ZDK's Edgar Nieto (24:15.10), Army's Irish Valenzuela (24:16.56), 7-Eleven's Baler Ravina (24:17.24), Army's Cris Joven (24:18.18) and Navy's El Joshua Carino (24:23.04).
Morales also took the Petron Sprint King award by a mile while Navarra crowned himself Mitsubishi King of the Mountain for the third straight year.
The Standard Insurance juniors (Under-23) plum went to Carino while the MVP Sports Foundation top 17-18 year-old award was won by 7-Eleven's Jay Lampawog.
The race was presented by LBC and supported by major sponsors MVP Sports Foundation, Petron and Mitsubishi. Minor sponors are Cannondale, Standard Insurance, Tech1 Corp., Maynilad and NLEX.
The tour was sanctioned by PhilCycling under Cavite Congressman Abraham 'Bambol' Tolentino with TV5 and Sports Radio as media partners.