Iloilo—Local riders will be facing a huge challenge from two world-ranked teams and a Russian national champion in the LBC Ronda Pilipinas 2019, which opens today at the City Health Office here.
Team Terranganu of Malaysia will lean on the showing of 33-year-old Russian Artem Ovechkin, who is expected to be a force to reckon with in the bikefest after winning the general classification championship of the Tour de Langkawi and emerging as a national titleholder of his country’s top road race.
Ovechkin is the highest UCI-ranked participant in the Ronda with 597 points, with Team Terranganu ranked no. 35 in the world.
Also expected to dominate is the world’s no. 112 Team Matrix Powertag of Japan, which is bannered by Spanish riders Jose Vicente Toribio Alcolea and Francisco Mancebo-Perez.
Last June, Ovechkin moved up in the world rankings after winning the men’s elite title in the 2018 National Road Championships’ Individual Time Trial General classification in Russia.
Ovechkin, who joined 17 races last year, also won the 2018 Tour of Almaty.
With the strong presence of the foreign contingent, Standard Insurance-Navymen El Joshua Carino and Ronald Oranza will need all the help from their teammates in their bid to make an impression.
“Ang lamang namin sa mga foreign team and riders, ay two weeks na kami dito at natingnan na namin ang ruta. Ang mga Pinoy naman ay dapat magtulungan dahil taga-rito kami,” said Oranza.
Stage 1 of this bikefest, which has drawn participation from 15 teams, including seven local squads, is a 197.6-kilometer journey, which ends at the Megaworld Festive Walk Mall finish line.
The 80-km mark of Stage 1 will offer difficulties since it is an uphill, bumpy and rolling terrain, with the scorching morning heat and strong winds giving the riders a push when they head west along the coastal roads of San Joaquin, Lawig and Anini.
Navymen coach Reinhard Gorrantes noted that many riders are expected to slow down when they go against the wind on their way back to Iloilo City.
The 26-year-old Carino is now the no. 1-ranked rider in the Philippines after he won the 2018 Le Tour de Filipinas with a UCI ranking of 1234.
Oranza, who was the defending champion of the LBC bikefest last year when it was not yet a UCI-sanctioned race, is no. 2 locally and has a UCI rank of 1502.