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Two-time champ Barnachea guns for third Ronda crown

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Santy Barnachea will try to defy father time as he guns for a historic third title as he spearheads newcomer Team Franzia in the Ronda Pilipinas 2018 presented by LBC slated March 3-18 starting from Vigan City and ending at Filinvest, Alabang.

The 41-year-old Barnachea needed to qualify in the first of two Ronda qualifying races in Tarlac City last year to complete his return after a two-year absence and didn’t hide his plan of winning a third crown after topping the inaugural race in 2011 and repeating as champion in 2015.

“I want to show them that I’m not yet done and I will prove that, just like our sponsor Franzia wine, we get better in time,” said Barnachea in Filipino.

Barnachea will be backstopped by Leonel Dimaano, Jonggo Tabayoyong, Beejay Nojara, Kim Kenneth Krog, Dennis Gabaldon, Alshyrnel Amiladjid and Mervin Corpuz at Team Franzia, which will make its debut in the eighth edition of the country’s biggest cycling race.

“I have a young and very energetic team and we are optimistic of our chances,” said Barnachea.

Barnachea, however, knows he is up against a tough field that included two-time champion Jan Paul Morales of Navy-Standard Insurance, George Oconer of Go for Gold, CCN Superteam’s Irish Valenzuela, Army-Bicycology Shop’s Cris Joven and Team Bike Xtreme’s Jaybop Pagananawon.

“I’m expecting this race as the toughest for me because I will face younger, stronger opponents. But I hope to make up for it by relying on my experience,” he said.

Barnachea is currently tied with Morales as the most titled in Ronda history with two apiece Valenzuela (2012), Mark Galedo (2013) and Reimon Lapaza (2014) as the other winners in this race presented by LBC and supported 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.

A cool P1 million will be at stake in this 12-stage race that will be jumpstarted by the 40-kilometer Vigan criterium Stage One on March 3 and the 155.4km Vigan-Pagudpud Stage Two the next day.

Also on tap are the 223.5km Pagudpud-Tuguegarao Stage Three on March 5, 135.2km Tuguegarao-Isabela Stage Four on March 6, 179.4km Isabela-Nueva Ecija Stage Five on March 8, 111.8km Nueva Ecija-Tarlac Stage Six on March 9, 31.5km Individual Time Trial Stage Seven and 42.14km Team Time Trial Stage Eight both in Tarlac on March 10 and 11.

Winding up the race are the 207.2km Silang-Batangas-Tagaytay Stage Nine on March 15, 147.8km Tagaytay-Calaca Stage 10 on March 16, 92.72km Calaca-Calaca Stage 11 on March 17 and the 50km Filinvest Alabang criterium Stage 12 on March 18.

Other teams joining are Nueva Ecija, Ilocos Sur, Go for Gold Developmental team, South Luzon and Tarlac Province.