Le Tour de Filipinas hits road April 21

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MANILA, Philippines — The 2014 Le Tour de Filipinas will showcase some of the continent’s best cycling teams in a four-day multistage race starting April 21 at Clark Field in Pampanga.

The Kazakhstan national team and Mongolia’s Attila Cycling Club are the favorites in the mountain stages while Satalyst Giant Racing Team from Australia and Ireland’s Polygon Sweet Nice are the teams to watch in the flat lands.

Now in its fifth year, the Union Cycliste Internationale-sanctioned bikathon will cover 616 kilometers.

The 80 riders from 15 teams, which include two local squads, will take off from Clark Field to Olongapo City in the 152.9 km Stage 1 featuring three of the country’s finest and modern highways in north of Metro Manila.

From Olongapo City, the cyclists will negotiate the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEX), North Luzon Expressway (NLEX) and the new Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway (TPLEX) on their way to the finish in Cabanatuan City in Stage 2 (182.5 kms).

“We call it the Triple X stage,” said Air21 president Jerry Jara, who was tapped by cycling godfather Alberto Lina to organize this year’s edition.

The 7-Eleven Road Bike Cycling Team and Philippine Navy Standard Insurance Cycling Team will banner the Philippine side in the race that offers $16,540 (about P744,300) in cash prizes with the individual champion getting $8,500.

Standard Insurance will bring in veteran riders Lloyd Lucien Reynante, John Mier, Jan Paul Morales and George Oconer while 7-Eleven Road Bike, which boasts of two-time Tour champion Mark Galedo, has yet to finalize its lineup.

Philippine Cycling Federation president and Cavite Rep. Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino said this year’s staging will serve as the qualifier for the Asian Championship.

“The foreigners are strong but I’m placing my bet on Filipino riders,” said Tolentino. “Filipino pride will be at stake.”

The other foreign teams seeing action: CCN Cycling Team of Brunei, Pegasus Continental Team of Indonesia, Terengganu Pro Asia Cycling Team of Malaysia, Attila Cycling Club of Mongolia, OCBC Singapore Continental Cycling Team of Singapore, and the UAE Cycling Team of United Arab Emirates, TSR Continental Team of Iran and the Asian Racing Team and Team Ukyo of Japan.

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