Australian track star rules roads to Isabela
Luke Parker scores his first big road win while a teammate celebrates after helping tow the young sprinter to the finish. 

CAUAYAN, Isabela — Young Australian track specialist Luke Parker came up with a brilliant idea to get out of trouble on a hill climb, setting up his tire change on the descent to make up for lost time, then his team provided a perfect leadoff to tow him to victory in a bunched sprint finish in Stage Two of Le Tour de Filipinas on Sunday.

The City of Perth rider suffered a puncture at the foot of the day’s only climb about 125 kilometers from the start but still rode on the flat tire to the top of the hill to meet his mechanic, allowing him to save some time while getting some downhill momentum to catch up with the main pack en route to victory in the 196-km stage from Aparri to this city.

A four-man break that stayed ahead for most of the race was pulled back by the pack with 15 km to go and a pack of over 20 riders battled on the final stretch in front of the Isabela State University, with 19-year-old Parker emerging winner by a bike’s length in five hours, seven minutes and 54 seconds.

2007 Southeast Asian Games track double bronze medalist Jan Paul Morales claimed second place, Caleb Jones of Taiwan-based Continental team CCN was third and 50 other riders in the first wave clocked the same time.

With team classification leader Tabriz Petrochem of Iran and local team 7-Eleven Road Bike trying to keep up and help defending individual champion Baler Ravina from losing more time, the Perth team managed to pull off their own plans.

The COP riders kept Parker tucked right in throughout the flats and Stage One runner-up Douglas Repacholi towed their main sprinter until the final 200 meters, allowing Parker to catapult to the front for his first major road victory.

“We really saved our energy and my teammates really looked after me perfectly… they made me comfortable in the bunch and in the end all I had to do was put my head down and not stop until I cross the line,” said Parker, who had represented Australia as a junior rider in various international track events including the UCI Juniors Track World Championships in Moscow in 2011.

“Doug and my teammates did an incredible job.”

Cris Joven of American Vinyl, Daniel Asto of Philippine Navy Standard Insurance, Samir Jabrayilov of Azerbaijan’s Synergy Cycling Project and Dutch rider Thomas Rabou of Singapore-based OCBC Continental team broke away early, with Asto topping the first intermediate sprint and Joven taking the next four.


But the quartet could not keep the lead and was eventually swallowed up by the rampaging peloton 15 kilometers from the finish.

Korea’s Lee Ki Suk, riding for Taiwan based continental team CCN, was also part of the first wave of riders and kept the top spot in the general individual classification with a two-day aggregate time of 9:43:17.

Repacholi is 13 seconds behind, while Tabriz’s Ghader Mizbani is two seconds further off, and the yellow jersey can be expected to change shoulders when the pack pedals 104 kilometers from here to Bayombong in Nueva Vizcaya. Parker came from out of nowhere to eighth in the standings, 3:26 behind.

“My climb… not so much. But we’ll try,” said Lee, smiling.

Tabriz is firmly on top of the team classification with a 29:11:22 aggregate, followed by CCN 3:23 behind (29:14:45) and City of Perth 6:05 behind (29:17:27).

Morales said he was lucky to have been in the front when the top riders began to battle for sprint position.

“Swerte rin na nandoon na sa harap nung nagka-buweluhan, nakasabay na rin,” said Morales.

Ravina got the needed help from his teammates and managed to register the same times as the leaders, but that only meant he is still over seven minutes behind in the overall standings, and now with only two stages to go.

The 31-year-old champion, however, said the foreign teams’ strategies may give him and other Filipinos a good chance to make a move.

“Okay lang din na nakasabay, kahit walang chance maka-bawas ng kahit konting time,” said Ravina. “Pero bukas, may chance uli, kasi kanya-kanya rin namang diskarte yung ibang teams, sila-sila nagbabanyatan, kaya baka makalusot tayo bukas.”

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