Whitehouse maintains overall individual lead; Australian rider Whitefield captures 2nd stage of Le Tour

NAGA CITY — Daniel Whitehouse of Terengganu Cycling Team (Malaysia) capitalized on his team’s game plan — attacking strategically and displayed impeccable cycling skills in sprint and mountain climbing anew — to preserve his overall individual leadership after two laps in the Le Tour De Filipinas.

The soft-spoken but daredevil Whitehouse of Manchester, United Kingdom, posted an aggregate clocking of six hours 15.24 minutes after 341.84 kilometers, protecting a one minute 57 seconds lead against Australian rider Benjamin Hill of Attaque Team Gusto (8:17:22) and Japanese rider Ryu Suzuki of Bridgestone Team (8:17:22), in the country’s premiere cycling event presented by AIR21 and produced by UBE Media Inc.

“My teammates did an excellent job in helping me — to keep the yellow jersey (symbol for overall individual supremacy) — it’s our main objective,” said Whitehouse, who actually finished 20th (4:19:21) in a group that crossed the finish line in Sunday’s Stage 2, which started in Sorsogon City bay walk and ended in Naga City, Camarines Sur, covering a distance of 177.35 kilometers.

Whitehouse reigned supreme in sprint and mountain climbing anew to file points for the coveted honors who pointed out that his team will “take one day at a time.”

Australian rider Sean Whitefield of Oliver’s Real Food Racing, displayed tremendous sprinting prowess and captured Stage 2, clocked 4:19:21. He was with a group of nine riders that crossed the finish line amid the midday scorching heat from a rain-drenched course going up to the critical three-kilometer “King of the Mountain” (KOM) bordering Sorsogon and Camarines Sur, and the dangerous zigzagging 20-kilometer downhill yet scenic seaside towns of Camsur.

“After the KOM, especially the downhill course, I felt nervous and just kept my head on,” said the jubilant 21-year old Whitefield for his first major lap victory in his career.

“My team felt that the other teams are as strong as we are and so we keep the distance with the peloton (main group of riders) going to the KOM,” said the Canberra (AUS) rider.He emphasized that it was in the last 10 kilometers that he and his teammates made a tactical move and sprinted in the last three kilometers for the win in the race with MVP Sports Foundation, Smart Communications and Petron as principal sponsors.

Korea’s Sanghong Park of LX Cycling Team and Kuwait rider Fernando Grijalba of Kuwait Cartucho finished second and respectively, with identical clocking of 4:19:21.

In the early going, three riders composed of Australian Jai Crawford (Kinan CT), Korea’s Daehyeon LX and Japanese Jin Okubo broke from the main pack.

Midway, in Tiwi, Albay, the Australian rider Crawford became the solo leader, however, failed to keep his stamina until he was caught by the main group — with Whitehouse and Whitefield in the group on the run to the KOM.

Philippine’s 7 Eleven RBP, Edgar Nieto (8:17:28) landed top 10 in the Individual General Classification, while teammates Mark Galedo (8:27:02) and Rustom Lim (8:34:01) for their efforts are the Best Filipino Riders.

Stage Three will be on Monday (February 20) from Naga City to Daet, Camarines Norte — a relatively flat 177.35 kms. And for the first time in Philippine Tour history, Tigaon town plays a major role as a turning point for the race.

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 km marked by a Category 2 climb over another enchanting Quezon landmark, Atimonan’s Tatlong Eme. Primo Agatep/PNA-northboundasia.com