All 75 protagonists from 15 teams, including 3 local clubs, are in for a daunting series of endurance tests starting on Thursday as the Le Tour de Filipinas, the only International Cycling Union-sanctioned road race in the country, hits the road for its 7th edition.
The competing teams, including the Philippine national team handled by PhilCycling, will figure in 4 stages in the annual race presented by Air21 from Antipolo City to Lucena City and Daet in Camarines Norte, and finally in Legaspi City, covering much of Southern Luzon and the Bicol Region.
Although there won’t be any relatively difficult climbs, this year’s edition will cover a total distance of 704.34 kilometers, imposingly staring down at the riders bannered by Frenchman Thomas Leibas, who will be wearing race jersey No. 001 as the defending champion from the Japan-based Bridgestone Anchor Cycling Team.
“With an average stage distance of 175 kilometers, the 7th edition of the Le Tour de Filipinas will showcase a lot of sprinting and will definitely bring out the best endurance riders in the field,” said Donna Lina, president of race organizer Ube Media Inc.
Aside from Bridgestone Anchor, the foreign force will be provided by Team Novo Nordisk (USA), Kinan Cycling Team (Japan), Terrenganu Cycling Team (Malaysia), Hsyport Look Cycling Team (China), Team Ukyo (Japan), Dutch Global Cycling Team (Holland), Vinno 4-Ever Sko (Kazakhstan), Attaque Team Gusto (Chinese Taipei), Skydive Dubai Pro Cycling Team (UAE), LX-IIBS Cycling Team (South Korea) and Oliver’s Real Food Racing (Australia).
Continental team 7-Eleven SAVA BRP and Team Cebu Kopiko Philippines are out to keep the local hopes in strong contention in the race which has Petron, MVP Sports Foundation and Smart as Principal Sponsors and Cargohaus, NMM, UFL, Philippine Airlines, Collab Printing Solutions, Autonation, Orangefix and Phenom as major sponsors.
Stage 1 from Antipolo City to Lucena City on Thursday will take the riders to the so-called Metro Manila backdoor to Southern Luzon, covering 153.53 kilometers, while Stage 2 on Friday from Lucena City to Daet will see the race slice through the southern edge of the Sierra Madre mountain range for a distance of 204.82 kilometers.
Stage 3 on Saturday, from Daet to Legaspi City in Albay, is 185.79 kilometers long while the final leg on Sunday will see the riders will circle the majestic Mayon Volcano twice in a Legaspi-Legaspi 160.20-km grind.
All teams were expected to arrive in their respective billeting assignments in Antipolo City starting on Monday night. The traditional welcome ceremony and dinner will be held on Wednesday at the fabled Hinulugang Taktak.
Stage 1 will start from the Sumulong Park infront of the Antipolo City Hall and the Shrine of Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage. All stages will kick off at 8 a.m. — By Jerome Lagunzad