TOP triathlete Nikko Huelgas tests himself against some of the best road cyclist in the country in the Luzon qualifying race for the LBC Ronda Pilipinas.
Fresh from a gold medal performance in the Kuala Lumpur Southeast Asian Games, Huelgas is using the event to train for future triathlon races including the 2018 Asian Games in Indonesia.
The Luzon qualifying fires off on Saturday, with former Ronda champions Santy Barnachea and Irish Valenzuela bannering the field.
The 41-year-old Barnachea, Ronda winner in 2012 and 2015, is looking to earn his spot in the main race tentatively set March 1.
Valenzuela, the 2013 Ronda titlist who is now works in Dubai, returns to action after sitting out the last two years following a road accident.
Junrey Navarra, the former Ronda King of the Mountain, is also hoping to make it back after skipping the 2016 race.
Navy’s Jan Paul Morales, the reigning Ronda champion, is one of the 20 riders seeded to the national finals but he decided to join the one-day race, which offers P30,000 to the champion.
Only 38 slots are up for grabs in the one-day race covering 180 kilometers from the Tarlac Provincial Capitol to mountaintop finish at Monasterio de Tarlac.
Another qualifying race is set Oct. 21 in Danao, Cebu where 38 more spots are at stake.
LBC Ronda project director Moe Chulani said the champion in the main race will take home P1 million.
“The LBC Ronda Pilipinas is upon us again, and just like in our past editions, we’re hoping to produce champions and attract talented young riders,” said Chulani.