PANAY LEG: PH Navy out to defend home turf in Ronda Pilipinas

MANY-time champion Philippine Navy-Standard Insurance will to try to defend their turf and lead the Filipino hosts against the expected strong foreign challenge in the LBC Ronda Pilipinas 2019 set Feb. 8-12 in Iloilo, Guimaras, Roxas City and Antique.

The Navymen will have a chance to compete against the best of them after lording over the past few editions of this annual race, and help the country earn vital Olympic qualifying points for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, Japan.

Reigning Ronda king Ronald Oranza, two-time champion John Paul Morales, and last year’s third-placer Junrey Navarra spearhead Navy’s loaded line-up.

They will also have Ronald Lomotos, Rudy Roque and El Joshua Carino – all of whom are consistent top 10 finishers in past editions of the event.

“This is our chance to show we can also compete against strong international teams,” Navy skipper Morales said.

For Oranza, who beat Morales last year to claim his very first Ronda crown, it will be about country and pride.

“In the past, we race to win for our Navy team and ourselves. This year, it will be for the country,” he stressed.

Sanctioned by the world governing Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), Ronda Pilipinas has drawn participation from 15 teams – including seven local squads.

Other local teams seeing action are Army Bicycology, Go for Gold, 7-Eleven Cliqq-Air21 by Roadbike Phls, Team Franzia, Team Tarlac and Bike Xtreme.

The international teams are: Matrix Powertag Japan, Nex Cycling, Korail Team Korea, PGN Road Cycling Team, Sri Lanka Navy Cycle Team, Customs Cycling Indonesia, Terengganu Cycling Team and Cambodia Cycling Team.

The race opens with the 197.6-kilometer Iloilo-Iloilo Stage One on Feb. 8 and will proceed with the 101.8-km Guimaras-Guimaras Stage Two the next day.

The cavalcade will then go back to Iloilo for the 179.4-km Iloilo-Roxas City Stage Three on Feb. 10 followed by the 146.9-km Roxas-Roxas Stage Four on Feb. 11.

It will conclude with the 148.9-km Roxas-Antique Stage Five on Feb. 12.

The awarding ceremony will be held in the island paradise of Boracay the same day.

The UCI is using a new qualification rule in this Olympic cycle leading to Tokyo, which allows the top 50 countries to make it straight to the quadrennial meet. (ABS-CBN News)