Sorsogon City— Experienced riders from the Philippine Navy-Standard Insurance will try to hold their ground against a younger crop of talented riders in 11th LBC Ronda Pilipinas, which starts here today with the time trials.
The tougher stages will come later and the Navymen, who are the defending individual and overall champions, will just have to bear with the cloudy conditions and the rainy weather, which could affect road visibility throughout the day.
For now, the Navymen will have to make sure that they won’t be counted out in the first two stages of the 1,406.2-km cycling extravaganza, a 10-stage, 13-team affair, which will start in Sorsogon City and end in Baguio City.
The Navymen, who took overall team honors in 2020, are back with Ronald Oranza, El Joshua Carino, Ronald Lomotos, Junrey Navarra and John Mark Camingao. They will also have national under-23 standouts Steve Horra and Jeremy Lizardo in their roster.
Led by defending individual champion George Oconer, the Navymen will be marked riders from the get-go.
Philippine Navy-Standard Insurance coach Reinhart Gorrantes took note of what the Navymen are up against as they face a numerous groups of younger riders, who wish to topple them from their lofty perch.
Stage 1 will be a 12.3-km individual time trial starting at 8 a.m. around Sorsogon City, beginning at the Provincial Capitol, followed by a 59.4-km team time trial at 1 p.m. Both races will finish at the Rampeolas Blvd.
The winner of the ITT will wear the red jersey, the symbolic outfit of the overall individual leader in the general classification standings.
Flat roads will greet many riders in the first seven stages, but things will be harder once the last three stages are on.
“Doon pa magkakatalo sa last three stages, dahil puro ahon,” said Gorrantes.
These stages are the uphill, mountainous routes starting from Baler, Aurora, traversing through Isabela and into backroads leading to the City of Pines.
The roads will be smooth at first, but rougher routes are expected come out after that, as the bikefest heads westward of Sorsogon, starting with the third stage, a 163-km massed start from Sorsogon City to Legazpi City.
The challenge is ramped up further in the eighth stage, a 174-km uphill ride from Baler, Aurora to Echague in Santiago, Isabela on March 19,
It will be followed by a gruelling 193.2-km ascent from Santiago, Isabela to Baguio City, Saturday.
An up-and-down, 65-km criterium will be held on the final day.