Rested Santy braces for tough Cebu grind
LAPU LAPU CITY, Cebu, Philippines – Santy Barnachea back in competitive form after a two-day break is ready to lead the 92-man field in today’s Stage Four of the LBC Ronda Pilipinas 2013 starting and ending in Cebu City.
Barnachea, seeking to become the first two-time winner of the LBC Ronda Pilipinas, vows to defend well against his pursuers in the 134.2-km race that will test the field’s climbing skills in a bid to keep the red jersey for the third stage in a row after wresting the overall lead in last Sunday’s Zamboanga City-Ipil Stage Two.
"I've spent a lot of energy in the first three stages and it's a good thing that we got a two-day break to re-energize," said Barnachea, who won the Tour twice in 2002 and 2006 before conquering the inaugural edition of the LBC Ronda Pilipinas in 2011, in Filipino.
Last Monday, Barnachea, 36, tried to break away from the pack early in the Pagadian-Iligan Stage Three but lost steam, enabling the main group to catch up with him. Still, he went on to cling to the overall individual lead with an aggregate time of nine hours, 54 minutes, 19 seconds, two minutes clear of closest rival Tomas Martinez of Team Tarlac who has 9:56.20.
Barnachea, however, expects a spirited challenge from a slew of rivals, including Martinez and third leg surprise winner Rudy Roque of LPGMA-American Vinyl, veteran campaigners Irish Valenzuela and Cris Joven, a youthful Navy-Standard recruit George Oconer and an old rival in Joel Calderon of Smart.
Roadbike PH's Ronald Gorrantes, Smart's Marcelo Felipe and Hundred Islands-Pangasinan's Reynaldo Navarro are also fancied to vie for lap honors.
Roque, a 21-year-old Tipo, Bataan native, is in third with a 9:57.13 clocking, Valenzuela and Joven at Nos. 5 and 9 in 9:57.20 and 9:57.54, Oconer at No. 7 in 9:57.35 and Calderon, the 2009 Tour winner, at No. 6 in 9:57.28.
Gorrantes is at No. 4 in 9:57.19, Felipe at No. 8 in 9:57.38 and Navarro at No. 10 in 9:57.57 of this 21-day, 16-stage and 2,200-km race sponsored by LBC Express, Inc., the country’s leading courier firm, and backed by Total, the MVP Sports Foundation, Jinbei Auto, Smart, Icom iDAS, Standard Insurance, Maynilad and NLEX.
Reigning champion Mark Galedo is also fancied to finally make his move here.
"I've been heavily guarded the past few stages, I’ll try again here in Cebu," said the 27-year-old Galedo in Filipino.
Barnachea and the rest of the field will tackle a pair of Category 4 ascents before battling two more Category 4 climbs in the 156-km Stage Five tomorrow starting in front of the Lapu Lapu City Hall and end on top of a mountain at the Mountain View Natures Park in Brgy. Busay.
"The race starts tomorrow (today) and Friday," said Barnachea.
The LBC Express, Inc. and LBC Foundation, meanwhile, conducted a coastal clean-up of both Mactan and Lapu Lapu shores yesterday as part of its corporate social responsibility program headed by Nena Wuthridge.