Top Pinoy riders face tough challenge in Le Tour de Filipinas

MANILA — Southeast Asian Games (SEAG) gold medalist Mark Galedo will lead local riders in their quest for top honors against foreign bets in the forthcoming Eight’’s Amazing Le Tour de Filipinas which will hit the road starting February 18 in the majestic foot of Mt. Mayon in Legaspi City, Albay.

Galedo, 31, of 7-Eleven Road Bike Philippines and winner of the 2014 edition, and local riders will face a tough challenge from foreign riders led by Frenchman Thomas Lebas, the 2015 winner of Kinan Cycling Team’s roster for the Category 2.2 race

Seventy-five cyclists representing 13 foreign continental teams and two local squads will start in Legazpi City and wind up 726.55 kilometers — the event’s total distance — northwards to Lucena City in Quezon Province on February 21.

The foreign teams are Oliver’s Real Food Racing (Australia), Keyi Look Sport (China), Attaque Team Gusto (Chinese Taipei), Kinan Cycling, Team Ukyo and Bridgestone Anchor Cycling Team (Japan), Cartucho.Es Pro Cycling (Kuwait), CCN Cycling Team (Laos), Terenganu Cycling (Malaysia), LX Pro Cycling and Korail Cycling Team (South Korea), Nice Cycling( Switzerland) and Uzbekistan National Team. Carrying the fight for the Philippines are the 7 Eleven Sava Road Bike Philippines continental team and the PhilCycling National Team.

The race which is sanctioned by Union Cycliste International (UCI), the world’s governing body of cycling, had its humble beginning in 1955 as “Tour of Luzon” is backed by 3E Logistics, Collab Printing Solutions, Destilleria Limtuaco, Integrated Waste Management, Inc. (IWMI), PLDT, U-Freight Logistics Inc. (UFL), Prudential Guarantee Insurance, Waste and Resources Management Inc. (WARM), Shopinas.com and UBE Express.

“For the eighth edition, we decided to reverse the route — from south to north,” said Donna Lina, President of Le Tour organizer UBE Media Inc. “The route is more technical this time because of the gradual upward gradient from Sorsogon to Lucena City.””

Stage One of the Le Tour — again presented by AIR21 and specially produced by UBE Media Inc. — from Legazpi City to Sorsogon City covers 164.5 kms. The cyclists will be flagged off with a picturesque view of Mayon Volcano sending them off and the mystique of Mount Bulusan staring at them as they negotiate a Category 1 climb and head to the finish on flat and well-paved roads.

Stage Two on February 19 of the race that has Philippine Airlines as official airlines partner will again be a technical ride from Sorsogon to Naga City — all of 177.35 kms but marked by the second King of the Mountain point on a deceptive climb on Tiwi’s hilly coastal road entering Camarines Sur via Sagnay town.

With the MVP Sports Foundation, Smart Communications and Petron as principal sponsors of the race also ran by race officials of the PhilCycling led by Tagaytay City Rep. Abraham Tolentino, the Le Tour will embark on a relatively flat 177.35 kms Stage Three on February 20 from Naga City to Daet, Camarines Norte. And for the first time in Philippine Tour history, Tigaon town plays a major role as a turning point for the race which carries the theme for 2017 “Eight’s Amazing.”

Stage Four of the race supported by Advance Solutions, Inc., Cargohaus, Inc., CCN Sports Philippines, Nague Malic Magnawa &Associates Customs Brokers (NMM), Phenom Sportswear and Unionbank on February 21 is the longest at 207.35 kms marked by a Category 2 climb over another enchanting Quezon landmark, Atimonan’s Tatlong Eme.

Organizers said Oleg Zemlyakov and his Vino Forever Team are not returning to defend the general classification crown because the 23-year-old from Kazakhstan has since gone up the UCI Road ladder since last year’s edition.

Aimed at boosting sports tourism in Bicol region, heads of local government units have thrown their full support behind the race are — Legaspi City Mayor Noel Rosal, Albay Gov. Al Francis Bichara, Sorsogon City Mayor Sally Lee, Sorsogon Gov. Robert Lee Rodrigueza, Naga City Mayor John Bongat, Tigaon Mayor Pamela Rinah Fuentebella, Camarines Sur Gov. Miguel Luis Villafuerte, Daet Mayor Benito Ochoa, Camarines Norte Gov. Edgardo Tallado, Lucena City Mayor Roderick Alcala and Quezon Governor David Suarez. Primo Agatep/PNA-northboundasia.com