BAGUIO CITY—Ghader Mizbani has raced all over Asia in the last two decades and yesterday conquered what he said was the most difficult course he has seen to rule the 2013 Le Tour de Pilipinas.
The skipper of the Tabriz Petrochemical squad topped the strength-sapping, 132.7-kilometer climb from Bayombong, Nueva Vizcaya, to here in four-hours, 30 minutes and eight seconds for the individual championship with teammate Amir Kolahdoz finishing second overall some 37 seconds behind.
The race was marred by the near-fatal crash of CCN rider and three-day overall leader Lee Ki-suk of South Korea after losing control in a downhill trek overlooking the Ambukalao dam, where he hit a metal barrier 92.5 kilometers into the stage and plunged 20 meters deep into a ravine.
Mizbani, who started the day 18 seconds behind in third spot, and Kolahdoz actually checked in with the same times after gobbling up Thomas Rabou in the last of three climbs in La Trinidad, Benguet, before practically pedaling as one all the way to the finish. Rabou finished third for the stage.
“I’ve been to many international races but this course is by far the most difficult,” said Mizbani, who clocked a total of 16 hours, 38 minutes and 37 seconds for the four-day bikathon.
Lee, the overall leader the last three days, was saved by the trees and miraculously suffered just a broken right middle finger and bruises in his arms and legs.
Aside from the overall individual plum, Mizbani was also crowned Sprint King while the 20-year-old Kolahdoz was rewarded best young rider of the race presented by Air21 in partnership with San Miguel Beer and Smart.
Rabou, the Dutch rider from Singapore-based OCBC Cycling Team, was named King of the Mountain.
“I still have the legs. This is my second race this year after skipping the entire Asia Tour in 2012 because of a back injury,” said Mizbani, 38, who placed eighth overall and second best among Asian riders in the Tour de Langkawi early this year.
Two-time local champion Mark Galedo of 7-Eleven Road Bike Philippines was the best-placed Filipino at eighth overall in the event backed 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.
Ronnel Hualda, also of 7-Eleven, was 11th overall with Joel Calderon of Philippine Navy Standard Insurance at 12th and Jonipher Ravina, last year’s champion, placing 13th.