LEGAZPI CITY —- Organizers of Le Tour de Filipinas, who chose the nearly perfect cone-shaped Mayon Volcano here as backdrop for the first leg of the professional road bicycle racing race in Southern Luzon, has urged today’s youth to embrace cycling as a sports.
“Let us encourage the youth to participate in this sports,” said Donna Lina, president of Le Tour de Filipinas, that will bring together 75 cyclists, representing 13 foreign teams and two local squads, through the four-stage race from February 18 to 21.
During a press briefing here, she said the eighth edition of the race, that will pass through major urban cities and towns in the Bicol region and Southern Tagalog areas, such as Legazpi City, Naga City, Sorsogon City, Daet and Lucena City will cover a total of 726.55 kilometers.
Lina said the 13 foreign cycling squads with five riders in each team came from Switzerland (NICE cycling team); Japan (KINAN, TEAM UKYO); Australia (BRIDGESTONE ANCHOR, OLIVER’S REAL FOOD RACING); Malaysia (TERENGGANU); China (KEYI LOOK); South Korea (LX PRO, KORAIL); Uzbekistan (national team); Laos (CCN); Kuwait (CARTUCHO.ES); and Taiwan.
The local cycling squads representing the Philippines are that of 7-Eleven Road Bike Philippines Cycling Team and the Philippine national team.
Lina said the newest edition of the four-stage race offers the same challenge over roads within Bicol and Southern Tagalog regions.
Stage one of the race will be from Legazpi City to Sorsogon City that covers 164.5 kms.
Cyclists will be flagged off with a view of Mt. Mayon. Towering over Albay province at 2,460 meters above sea level, the volcano will send off the cyclists while Mt. Bulusan and its mountain lake, a poster image of neighboring Sorsogon province, will stare at them as they finish the category 1 of the race.
Stage 2, that will be on Feb. 19, from Sorsogon to Naga City, will cover 177.35 kms.
On Feb. 20, Stage 3 of the race will be a 177.35-km stretch from Naga City to Daet, Camarines Norte, site of the Bicol National Park where endemic species of trees, that include a giant lawaan tree, and various species of rare fauna could be found.
The last stage of the race on Feb. 21, which was marked at 207.35 kms, will be the longest.
“The fourth stage is a category 2 climb over another enchanting Quezon landmark, Atimonan’s Tatlong Eme,” said Lina.
She added the organizers of Le Tour are holding the event to promote the sports of cycling and to have an international camaraderie among sports enthusiasts.
Lina added the local government and private sector should be encouraged in coming up with similar activities that will push young people and the local population to participate in sports.
Air21 is the franchise holder of the Tour De Filipinas after it bought the rights from Marlboro Cigarette Co., the tour owner of the Tour of Luzon and Marlboro Tour.
The annual Tour of Luzon that had its heyday during the 50s, 60s and 70s featured fabled local cycling heroes, who hurdled gruelling mountainous terrains from north to south of Luzon island and were eagerly anticipated by their Filipino fans listening to their transistor radio sets.
Legazpi City’s bid to become a favored site for national and international sports events got another boost after it was chosen as kick-off point for Le Tour Filipinas here.
In recent years, Albay’s capital city has been playing host to national and international sports events that include the Mayon Triathlon and Mayon Trail Run.
Last year, Albay hosted the 2016 Palarong Pambansa, an annual youth sports event that gathers public elementary and high school students all over the Philippines.
This week, Legazpi City is hosting Palarong Bicol 2017 where around 8,000 young athletes from the six provinces and seven cities of the region are competing in 22 sports events at the newly built Albay Sports and Tourism Complex at the Bicol University compound in this city. Connie Destura/PNA-northboundasia.com