SANTY Barnachea is out to prove he still has what it takes, Irish Valenzuela looks to regain the top spot after an injury layoff and Jan Paul Morales goes for a third straight title in the Ronda Pilipinas starting on Saturday in Vigan, Ilocos Cur.
Barnachea, 41, won the inaugural race in 2011 and repeated in 2015 while Valenzuela, 30, claimed the 2013 title but hasn’t competed much since figuring in a road accident two years ago.
“I’m not yet done, I still have something left in me,” said Barnachea, who is back after missing the last two stagings due to personal reasons, in Filipino.
“When I race, my goal is always to win,” said Valenzuela.
Morales is confident he can complete the triple.
“I know it will not be easy but with the proper support from my team and good strategy, I have a strong chance of winning again this year,” said Morales.
Morales will be backed by Ronald Oranza, who returns after skipping last year’s race due to his national team commitment. Riding with them are last year’s runner-up Rudy Roque, El Joshua Carino, Jhon Mark Camingao, Ronald Lomotos, Archie Cardana and Ronda King of the Mountain Junrey Navarra.
Also expected to contend for the title are 2015 second placer George Oconer of Go for Gold, last year’s third placer Cris Joven of Army-Bicycology, Bike Xtreme’s Jaybop Pagnanawon and Go for Gold Developmental team’s Ronnel Hualda.
Veteran Warren Davadilla, a two-time winner of the fabled Marlboro Tour, has teamed up with Valenzuela and Julius Mark Bonzo at CCN.
The winner of the race presented by LBC will get P1 million.
The race starts with the 40-kilometer Vigan criterium Stage One on March 3 with the 155.4km Vigan-Pagudpud race set the next day.
The third stage is a 223.5-km Pagudpud to Tuguegarao race on March 5 followed by the 135.2-km Tuguegarao-Isabela Stage Four on March 6.
The 179.4-km Isabela-Nueva Ecija Stage Five is set on March 8, followed by the 111.8-km Nueva Ecija-Tarlac stage on March 9.
Tarlac hosts the 31.5-km Individual Time Trial on March 10 and the 42.14-km Team Time Trial the next day.
Stage Nine is a 207.2km Silang-Tagaytay race on March 15, with the 147.8-km Tagaytay-Calaca race set the next day followed by the 92.72-km Calaca-Calaca Stage 11.
The race ends with the 50km Filinvest Alabang criterium on March 18.
Tarlac Province, Go for Gold, Go for Gold Developmental team, South Luzon, Ilocos Sur Province, Nueva Ecija and Team Bike Xtreme are also fielding teams in the race presented by LBC and supported by MVP Sports Foundation, CCN, Petron, Versa.ph, 3Q Sports Event Management Inc., Boy Kanin, Franzia, Standard Insurance, Bike Xtreme, SH+, Guerciotti, Prolite, Green Planet, Maynilad, NLEX Cycling, Lightwater, LBC Foundation and PhilCycling.