Eyes on 4 champs as Le Tour de Filipinas flags off today
BALANGA, Bataan—The 2015 Le Tour de Filipinas flags off here today with the champions of the past four stagings expected to dispute the top prize in local cycling’s most prestigious race.
Defending champion Mark Galedo and 2012 winner Baler Ravina of 7-Eleven/Road Bike Philippines will spearhead the local challenge in the four-day bikathon that also features Iranians Rahim Emami (2011 champion) and 2013 crown holder Ghader Mizbani.
“We cannot promise anything but what is definite is that I and my teammates will do our best,” said Galedo, a three-time multistage race winner seeking to set another record in the Tour.
The highlight of today’s Stage 1 is a series of punishing climbs and wind-aided downhill rides in Morong approaching the latter part of the 126 -km course that begins and ends in this historic city of war heroes.
“I had a bad experience on this route. But this stage is very important. It will set the tone of the entire race until the Tour reaches Baguio City,” said Galedo, who blew the overall lead in another major race two years ago held on the same course.
The next two laps on Monday (154.70km, Balanga-Iba, Zambales) and Tuesday (150.10km, Iba-Lingayen, Pangasinan) will be another race for sprinters before the punishing mountain stage going to Baguio City (101.70km) that is expected to determine the champion.
On its sixth edition, the Le Tour is presented by Air21 and co-presented by MVP Sports Foundation and Smart.
A total of 15 teams, 13 of them foreign squads, with five riders each will vie for the team championship in the race that will honor the 44 Special Action Force (SAF) troopers who were killed recently in their tour of duty in Maguindanao.
“To start the 2015 Le Tour in Bataan at a time the nation is mourning for the 44 slain SAF forces in Mamasapano [Maguindanao] inspires us to dedicate the race to our fallen heroes,” said Donna Lina-Flavier, president of race organizer Ube Media Inc.
Galedo, who will lead the national team preparing for the Asian Cycling Championships this month and the Singapore Southeast Asian Games in June, and Ravina know how tough the field is, especially with the two Iranian teams—Pishgaman Yazd Pro Cycling and TPT Cycling—ranked as Asia’s No. 1 in the UCI rankings.
The only UCI race in the country calendared on the Asia Tour, the Le Tour is backed by Victory Liner, San Mig Zero, Novo Nordisk Pharmaceuticals and Canon with Isuzu, MAN Truck and Bus, Viking Rent-A-Car and NLEX as partners.
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