Ravina faces tough field in Le Tour de Filipinas

FOCUS will be on Baler Ravina when he starts his bid for back-to-back titles as  the fourth edition of Le Tour de Filipinas fires off Saturday in Bangui, the Ilocos Norte town made famous by its coastal windmills.

Ravina won last year’s edition to become only the second Filipino to win an International Cycling Union (UCI) multi-stage race. This year, the 31-year-old from Asingan, Pangasinan, will head a 16-team, 80-cyclist field in the four-stage summer sports spectacle presented by Air21.

Le Tour starts with a 175.5-sm stage from Bangui to Aparri in Cagayan on Saturday, followed by a 196 km ride to Cauayan in Isabela, and a 104-km cruise to Bayombong in Nueva Vizcaya.

Stage Four — 133.5 kms from Bayombong to Baguio City — will be the final test.

“Stage Four will bring out the best of these riders,” said Bert Lina, chairman of both the national federation PhilCycling and the race’s presentor Air21.

Gary Cayton, head of the organizing Dynamic Outsource Solutions Inc., admits Ravina will have a tougher battle this time, with cyclists from 11 foreign and five local squads seeing action, nine of which are UCI continental teams.

“This year’s race has become tougher, and our Filipino cyclists would be tested to the hilt,” said Cayton.

The continental teams from abroad include Terrenganu Cycling (Malaysia), OSBC Singapore (Singapore), CCN Cycling Team (Taiwan), Ayandeh Continental (Uzbekistan), Tabriz Petrochemical (Iran), Synergy Baku Cycling Project (Azerbaijan) and Polygon Sweet Nice (Ireland).

The foreign club teams are Perth Cycling (Australia), Team Direct Asia (Hongkong), Atilla Cycling Club (Mongolia) and Korail Cycling Team (Korea).

LBC-MVPSF Cycling Pilipinas and Team 7-Eleven-Roadbike Philippines, Philippine-based teams that achieved continental status only this year, as well as Navy-Standard Insurance, Marines-Standard Insurance and American Vinyl are the local teams vying for honors.

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