SEAG triathlon king Nikko Huelgas joins top riders in Ronda Pilipinas qualifying race

Southeast Asian Games triathlon gold medalist Nikko Huelgas joins a tough field in the one-day qualifying race of the 2018 LBC Ronda Pilipinas as part of his preparation for several major international tournaments ahead.

Huelgas will try to sharpen his riding skills in preparation for the World Cup late this year, the 2018 Palembang Asian Games and the 2019 SEAG in Manila.

Former champions Santy Barnachea and Irish Valenzuela also try to earn a crack in reclaiming old glory in the race that starts in front of the Tarlac Provincial Capitol and ends at the Monasterio de Tarlac.

Barnachea, the 41-year-old inaugural Ronda champion in 2012 who repeated in 2015, is looking to qualify in the seventh edition of this annual race tentatively slated on March 1. Making the tourney will give him another chance to win a third race title.

Valenzuela, the 2013 winner who is back after being sidelined by a road accident two years ago, is looking to win the race for the second time and pocket the top purse worth a whopping P1 million courtesy of LBC.

Also aspiring to book spot is Junrey Navarra, the former many-time Ronda King of the Mountain winner who skipped last year’s race due to other commitments. Navy’s Jan Paul Morales, the reigning Ronda champ, has automatically qualified along with 19 others after finishing in the top 20 last year but will join this one-day race as part of his preparation for a title-defense.

The 332 participants will battle for 38 slots and the top purse worth P30,000. The second and third placers will pocket P20,000 and P10,000, respectively.

Another qualifying race has been set on Oct. 21 in Danao, Cebu where 38 more spots are being staked.

LBC Ronda project director Moe Chulani hopes this year’s race would produce young, promising athletes.

“As in the past years, the LBC Ronda Pilipinas is geared towards giving aspiring young riders a chance to fulfill their cycling dreams,” said Chulani.

The race director is Jingo Hervas.