APARRI, Cagayan—Lee Ki-suk, the sprint specialist of Taiwan-based CCN Cycling Team, nipped Douglas Repacholi of Perth Cycling Team by a wheel in a wild dash to the finish yesterday to seize the opening stage of the 2013 Le Tour de Filipinas.
Lee screamed and punched the air in delight as he crossed the payoff line in four hours, 35 minutes and 42 seconds at the end of the mostly flat 183-kilometer trip from Bangui, Ilocos Norte.
“I’m good on flat roads but TPT (Tabriz Petrochemical) is a strong team so we need to work together to beat them,” said the 26-year-old Korean.
Repacholi checked in with the same clocking as Lee, followed by four Tabriz riders from Iran led by Ghader Mizbani Iranagh, who clinched third place, two seconds behind the lap winner.
Hossein Askari placed fourth with the same time as Iranagh, while Saeid Safarzadeh and Amir Kolahdoz Hagh arrived fifth and sixth, 30 seconds back, giving the Iran-based Tabriz the early lead in the team race.
Filipino cyclists failed to make it in the top 10 with Lloyd Reynante of Philippine Team Standard and Ronnel Hualda of 7-Eleven Road Bike Philippines placing 14th and 15th overall, 6:57 behind.
Joel Calderon, who placed third overall last year, finished 19th (7:04 behind) while defending champion Baler Ravina of 7-Eleven came in a sputtering 22nd, 7:15 slower than Lee.
“I was trapped in the second group and couldn’t get out when the foreign riders broke free,” said Ravina in Filipino.
Rain battered the 74-rider pack early in the race with a 13-man group led by Lee cutting loose at the 30-km mark on a long descent from the only King of the Mountain challenge for the day at the Ilocos Norte provincial border.
The UCI-sanctioned race is presented by Air21 in partnership with San Miguel Corp. and Smart.
The Le Tour is also sponsored by Standard Insurance, Jinbei, Victory Liner, San Mig Coffee, Magnolia Purewater, Red Media, Foton, Maynilad, Kia, Sign Media, Integrated Waste Management, Eurotel, American Vinyl, LBC and 7-Eleven.