Le Tour: Australian Whitfield weathers rain to win 2nd stage
NAGA CITY—Even the driving rains and the blustery coastal ride won’t distract Daniel Whitehouse from protecting the precious yellow jersey.
Riding for Terengganu Cycling Team, Whitehouse simply warded off every challenge on the road to retain the overall lead after the second stage of the 8th Le Tour de Filipinas presented by Air21 on Sunday.
“It makes life harder if I have to watch 10 riders who are capable of making an attack,” said the 22-year climb specialist from Manchester, England. “The other challengers were always attacking me. Thankfully, no time was lost today.”
Whitehouse, who prevailed in the opening lap from Legaspi to Sorsogon City to seize the overall leader’s yellow shirt, managed to arrive at the finish with a big bunch of riders led by Stage 2 winner Sean Whitfield of Oliver’s Real Food Racing.
Whitfield led a tight sprint to the line and nosed out Sanghong Park of LX Cycling Team to complete the 177.35-kilometer trip from Sorsogon City in four hours, 19 minutes and 21 seconds.
Fernando Grijalba of Kuwait Caruncho.Es placed third during their mad dash and had the same clocking as Whitfield along with 25 other riders, including Whitehouse.
The overall general classification leader checked in 20th in the stage made difficult by a long punishing climb on the seaside town of Tiwi.
“The hard part began when we hit the coast and the roads started to go up and down,” said Whitehouse. “The rain and the wind plus the climb blew us apart.”
Jai Crawford of Kinan Cycling Team made a bold solo breakaway approaching the climb halfway through the course and conquered the only king of the mountain challenge of the day.
But Crawford’s gambit to take the stage by his lonesome didn’t pay off as the Australian was reeled in by the chase pack featuring Whitehouse after the second intermediate sprint in Tigaon town, some 30 km from the finish.
The top of the standings hardly moved with Whitehouse leading Stage 2 second-placer Benjamin Hill of Attaque Team Gusto by 1:57 and Ryu Suzuki of Bridgestone Anchor Cycling Team by 1:58.
With today’s 177.35km third stage going to Daet, Camarines Sur, largely flat, Whitehouse is expected to keep the yellow shirt until the final stage on Tuesday.
“Like I’ve said, I’ll just take it one stage at a time,’’ said Whitehouse, whose family is now based in Christchurch, New Zealand. “’We’ll see what happens tomorrow (today).”
Grijalba remained fourth and Crawford lay fifth, each of them two minutes behind Whitehouse in the four-day race backed by Petron, UPS, Philippine Airlines, Advanced Solutions Inc., Cargohaus Inc., CCN Sports Philippines, IWMI, NMM Customs Broker, Phenom Sportswear, UFL Philippines and WARM.
Overall, Team Ukyo’s Eiichi Hirai stayed at sixth, Nathan Erle was seventh, Guardiola lay at eighth, 2015 champ Thomas Lebas at ninth and Edgar Nieto of 7Eleven-Road Bike Philippines, all of them 2:04 back.
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