Jan Paul Morales targets a three-peat against a tough field as the Ronda Pilipinas rolls off Saturday with the 40-km Stage One criterium in Vigan Ilocos Sur.
“I expect it to be really tough this year because there are returning Ronda champions and some young strong riders who are also capable of winning,” said Morales of Navy-Standard Insurance on the eve of the 12-stage summer bikathon presented by LBC.
Morales is pertaining to Team Franzia’s Santy Barnachea, who is also eyeing a third title after ruling the 2011 and 2015 editions, as well as 2013 winner Irish Valenzuela of CCN Superteam.
George Oconer of Go for Gold and Ronald Oranza, Morales’ Navy teammate, will also be seeing action anew after missing the 2017 edition of the race because of their stint with the national team.
The other competing teams are the Tarlac Province, South Luzon, Ilocos Sur Province, Nueva Ecija and Team Bike Xtreme.
The event is backed 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.
The 155.4km Vigan-Pagudpud Stage Two will fire off Sunday while the third leg, a 223.5km Pagudpud-Tuguegarao Stage Three, is set on March 5, to be followed by the 135.2km Tuguegarao-Isabela Stage Four on March 6, the 179.4km Isabela-Nueva Ecija Stage Five on March 8, the 111.8km Nueva Ecija-Tarlac Stage Six on March 9, the 31.5km Individual Time Trial Stage Seven and the 42.14km Team Time Trial Stage Eight both in Tarlac on March 10 and 11, respectively.
Stage Nine will be a 207.2km Silang-Batangas-Tagaytay race on March 15 followed by the 147.8km Tagaytay-Calaca Stage 10 on March 16, the 92.72km Calaca-Calaca Stage 11 on March 17 and the 50km Filinvest Alabang criterium Stage 12 on March 18.