Sorsogon City—Just like last year, Team 7Eleven Cliqq-Air21 is hoping to make a dent again in the 10-stage LBC Ronda Pilipinas 10th anniversary race, which reels off today Rampolas Blvd. here.
But this time, veteran rider Mark Galedo returns after a five-year absence with new teammates backing him up.
And team manager Rick Rodriguez is upbeat that the whole team will be able to come up with decent finishes again.
“The team has always done well. And we always aim for the best,” said Rodriguez at the end of the day’s practice run.
Galedo is among five former champions who are around, along with two-time winners Jan Paul Morales of Standard Insurance-Navy and Santy Barnachea of Scratch it.
Reimon Lapaza (2014) is riding with Celeste Cycles.
The Navymen will be supporting Morales, who won it in 2016 and 2017 and is hoping to leave his mark with Barnachea, who took the inaugural winner in 2011 and ruled 2015.
Rain which has been pouring intermittently for the last two days, has almost died down on the eve of Stage 1, a counterclockwise 137-km out-and-back chase around the mostly flat roads in the southernmost province of Luzon.
Riders first head south and go on for 115 kms to Juban, before making a turn north after coasting around south of the Bulusan Volcano area.
There are many contenders in the tour, including former Le Tour champion El Joshua Carino, Junrey Navarra and George Oconer of Standard Insurance, and Marcelo Felipe, the best Filipino finisher in last year’s staging.
Meanwhile, LBC Ronda Pilipinas chairman Moe Chulani said Lingayen will not be in the race route anymore.
Instead, Stage 6 will now be a Tarlac-to-Tarlac lap on Feb. 29, while Stage 7 is now from Tarlac to Palayan City, Nueva Ecija on March 1.