BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya—Mehdi Sohrabi and his Tabriz Petrochemical teammates purposely signed up to conquer the hardest climb in the Le Tour de Filipinas.
Iran’s three-time Asian cycling individual champion pulled off a late breakaway with Rustom Lim of LBC Cycling Pilipinas to rule yesterday’s hilly Stage 3 even as Korean Lee Ki-suk of CCN Cycling kept a firm grip on the overall lead for the third straight day.
Showing off his mountain-riding skills, Sohrabi clocked two hours and 24.01 at the end of the rolling 104-kilometer ride from Cauayan City, Isabela.
Lim, who bolted from the peloton and caught the Iranian following a tricky descent in Diadi, shared the same time after both riders sprinted to the finish in the last 25 km. Ronnel Hualda of 7-Eleven Road Bike Philippines came in third, 1:06 behind.
“We intentionally came here just for Stage 4,” said Tabriz coach Kazemi Ahad. “They say it’s the toughest lap in the race. Our team rides better on hilly roads.”
Today’s finale is a punishing 132.7 km ride through the serpentine roads of the Sierra Madre and Cordillera mountain ranges going to Burnham Park in Baguio, considered the most grueling route in local cycling.
Overall, Lee holds a 16-second advantage over Douglas Repacholi of Perth Cycling Team after finishing fifth with a big group that included Hualda.
Ghader Mizbani remained third, 18 seconds behind Lee, while Tabriz teammate Hossein Askari was fourth, 21 seconds back.
Caleb Jones of CCN was fifth and Amir Kolahdoz of Tabriz sixth, both 51 seconds back, followed by Saeid Safarzadeh of Tabriz (0:52 behind), Stage 2 winner Luke Parker of Perth (3:29), Edgar Nohales Nieto of Philippine Navy (3:40) and John Ebsen of continental team Synergy Cycling Project (3:42).
Hualda stayed 13th, 7:15 back. Lloyd Reynante was 15th (7:19) and Joel Calderon 17th (7:26).
Defending champion Baler Ravina and two-time Tour champion Mark Galedo of 7-Eleven Road Bike lay 19th and 20th, both 7:37 behind.
“The champion will be crowned in Baguio, not here,” said Ravina in Filipino.
With one stage left, Tabriz riders are on their way to duplicating the 2011 Le Tour team title with a 4:29 lead over Taiwan-based CCN Cycling. Perth Cycling Team remained third, 7:11 behind, while 7-Eleven Road Bike (Philippines) was fourth, 21:59 back.