Dueling dates for cycling’s major races
LOCAL cycling’s blue-ribbon races—Le Tour de Filipinas and Ronda Pilipinas—have February start dates that deprive the country’s top road riders the opportunity to start in both.
Le Tour, presented by Air21 starting Feb. 18, is a four-day contest, the only one sanctioned here by the International Cycling Union (UCI), cycling’s world governing body.
It features 15 crack teams, 12 foreign and three local, bannered by the nation’s elite and under-23 racers that will snake their way from Antipolo City to Legazpi City.
The 7th Le Tour is geared for road riders eager to pile up points for a shot at the world championships and the Olympics. The country’s last cycling road-race Olympians were Norberto Oconer and Domingo Villanueva in the 1992 Barcelona Games.
The 6-year-old, more lucrative Ronda is a three-pronged event for local riders only. It gets going in Butuan City for its Mindanao leg on Feb. 20 to 27. Two more five-leg races fire off in the Visayas in March and Luzon in April.
A wonder on wheels awaited by the masses, Ronda in a way revives the famed Marlboro Tour. It garners enormous publicity for its corporate presenter, forwarding giant LBC, Air21’s business rival.
Riders will compete in a mixture of road, individual time trial and criterium races—a departure from the usual heavy dose of road races. And instead of one overall champion, the 2016 Ronda will crown separate overall winners in the Mindanao, Visayas and Luzon sections.
Ronda executive project director Moe Chulani says that LBC is not out there to train the klieg lights on national riders like last year’s overall winner Santy Barnachea. The bigger target is to find grassroots cyclists who can perform in the sport’s bigger stages someday.
Organizers of both races trace the overlap in their start dates to a snafu in the Asia Tour calendar, set by UCI, that pushed the Le Tour schedule forward to give way to the Tour of Langkawi in Malaysia.
The combative Chulani asserts that Ronda’s race timetable, including its kickoff date that happens to be two days after Le Tour’s, had been set as early as February last year.
It’s a Herculean task to move, house and feed a traveling band of 400 of cyclists, officials, security personnel, etc. from island to island.
Cyclists starting in the Le Tour can still join the Ronda. However, they will be restricted to the daily lap bonanzas, and are ineligible for overall individual accolades in the Mindanao leg. But they can win the whole enchilada in the Visayas and Luzon sections.
Road commissaire Lorenzo Lomibao Jr. insists that the dueling dates did not result from a case of one-upmanship between the forwarding behemoths.
“Actually, they are in a healthy relationship that benefits everyone in cycling,” he said.
Not true, says a cycling observer whose international cycling exposure dates back to the 1990s. “In reality, the organizers of both races don’t talk to each other,” he said.
The observer, who requested anonymity, said the UCI calendar is not carved in stone. He explained that the national association for cycling, the Integrated Cycling Federation of the Philippines (PhilCycling), had the prerogative to request dates from UCI that would have been beneficial to cyclists, but never attempted to.
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