Ravina defiant as local riders fade in face of strong Le Tour opposition
A huge group passes Patapat Viaduct in Pagudpud before the pack breaks up after the climb to the Ilocos Norte-Cagayan border.

APARRI — Defending champion Baler Ravina remained defiant despite a faltering start, but national team member Joel Calderon felt that the elite international field in Le Tour de Filipinas may be a little too much for Filipino riders hoping to make a mark in the UCI Asia Tour.

Ravina, who scored a huge surprise win in last year’s event, struggled early in Stage One on Saturday and wound up in 22nd place, crossing the line over seven minutes behind winner Lee Ki Suk of Korea.

It will be a huge deficit to overcome in a short four-stage Tour, especially with Stage Two set on a flat route that does not present a lot of chances for attack, but Ravina believes he can still make up for time lost during the 183-kilometer stage from Bangui in Ilocos Norte to this municipality.

“Kaya naman sumabay (with foreign riders). Naipit lang, naputol kami,” said Ravina, who pushed hard to stay with the leaders in the first 30 kilometers but kept on looking behind to see if teammates and other local riders who were not able to react quickly to the early break would be able to catch up.

Ravina also said he had difficulty breathing, and he eventually dropped back.

As Lee dominated the race, national team member Lloyd Lucien Reynante, runner-up in the Tour Pilipinas in 2004, wound up as the best-placed Filipino for the day at 14th.

“Bawi na lang bukas, hindi natin masabi, baka may pagkakataon,” said Ravina of the second stage, a 196-kilometer ride from Aparri to Cauayan in Isabela.

Calderon finished 19th, 7:04 behind the stage winner, but said the elite field is simply too tough to overcome.

Team Philippine Navy Standard Insurance rider stuck with the huge lead pack in the first 30 kilometers but faded as riders from Iran, Australia and Korea, among others, took charge in the race presented by Air21 in partnership with San Miguel Corp. and Smart.

Le Tour de Filipinas features 15 teams, among them 10 foreign squads.

“Hindi na-sustain. Hindi naman natin ka-level and mga yan e. Malayo ang skill level nila sa atin,” said Calderon.

Reynante had earlier explained that some races in other Asian countries feature only a few foreign teams, giving local riders a chance to earn precious points in the UCI Asia series.

But Reynante, the son of former Marlboro Tour champion Maui, said Filipino riders can make the most out of these races if only they set the goals right and communicate during the event sponsored by Standard Insurance, Jinbei, Victory Liner, San Mig Coffee, Magnolia Purewater, Red Media, Foton, Maynilad, Kia, Sign Media, Integrated Waste Management Inc., Eurotel, American Vinyl, LBC and 7-Eleven.


“Para sa atin (Filipinos) namang lahat iyan e. Hindi naman kailangang maging magka-teammate para  magtulungan,” said Reynante.

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