2016 Le Tour kicks off Feb. 18
THE RACE for supremacy in the 2016 Le Tour de Filipinas has been thrown wide open by the absence of the formidable Iranian contingent which failed to register for the race on time.
With the Iranians from last year’s team champion Tabriz Petrochemical missing at the starting line, climb specialist Thomas Lebas of France will have fewer problems defending his individual crown in the bikathon featuring 15 teams of riders, 12 of them based overseas.
Teams from Belarus, United Arab Emirates, Japan, the Netherlands, United States, Germany, South Korea, and Taiwan, among others, made it to the 691-kilometer tour.
The four-stage International Cycling Union (UCI) category 2.2 race offers a change of scenery this time —a break from the usual treacherous journey capped by a Baguio City climb—as it heads to the Bicol region for the first time in seven years.
7-Eleven Road Bike Philippines, Kopiko Cebu Team and the Philippine national squad comprise the local challenge in the tour that starts on Feb. 18 and winds up on Feb. 21.
But hopes of a Filipino victory has been dampened somewhat with the withdrawal of 2014 titlist and multiple Tour champion Mark Galedo.
Team manager Bong Sual of 7-Eleven Road Bike said Galedo is preparing for the Tour de Langkawi in Malaysia which will fire off three days after the Le Tour.
Expected to lead the local teams are former champion Baler Ravina, Felipe Marcelo, Ronald Oranza, George Oconer as well as foreign reinforcements Edgar Nieto of Spain and Australian Jessie Ewart.
“The clamor of foreign teams to race here has grown each year,” said Donna May Lina, chair of the organizing commitee of the race presented by Air21.
The tour starts on Feb. 18 with a 153 km stage from Antipolo City to Lucena City, followed by the 204 km Stage 2 from Lucena to Daet, Camarines Norte via Atimonan, Quezon.
The 187 km Stage 3 will be a picturesque ride to the foothills of majestic Mayon Volcano in Legazpi City.
Stage 4 is an out-and-back 147 km course in Legazpi City.
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