ANTIPOLO — Thomas Lebas sees a tough task but says with a talented team joining him, the chance of claiming back-to-back titles in Le Tour de Filipinas is very good.
The four-day event fires off on Thursday with Stage One from Antipolo City to Lucena City.
The Frenchman is one of 75 riders in the seventh edition of Le Tour, which features a different terrain that will bring the cyclists from Antipolo to Legazpi City and the majestic Mayon Volcano, enough reason for Leibas to see his defense of the title as difficult.
“I expect a tough ride from the other cyclists but I believe me and my team will be up to the challenge,” said Leibas, riding with the Bridgestone Anchor team based in Japan.
The 153.53-km Stage One will see riders pass through the so-called Metro Manila backdoor to Southern Luzon, including a climb in Sitio Bugarin in Pililia, Rizal and into towns located in the eastern side of Laguna de Bay. Riders will also pass by San Pablo City, and the Quezon towns of Tiaong, Candelaria, and Sariaya before finishing in Lucena.
UCI International Commissaire Peter Tomlinson presided over the team managers meeting held on Wednesday afternoon with Filipino International Commissaire Jose Adolfo Cruz, and Continental Commissaires Jun Lomibao and Carlos Gredonia; race comptroller Paquito Rivas, and race director Modesto Bonzo; Lina, Air21 president Rudy Fulo, Le Tour adviser Gary Cayron, and Le Tour project director Sunshine Mendoza.
The Philippine national team is joined by local squads 7-Eleven SAVA Road Bike Philippines and Team Cebu Kopiko Philippines, in the race with 11 foreign teams.
Team Novo Nordisk of USA sent a team, while also seeing action are Kinan Cycling Team (Japan), Terrenganu Cycling Team (Malaysia), Hysport Look Cycling Team (China), Team Ukyo (Japan), Dutch Global Cycling Team (Netherlands), Vinno 4-Ever Sko (Kazakhstan), Attaque Team Gusto (Chinese Taipei), Skydive Dubai Pro Cycling Team (UAE), LX-IIBS Cycling Team (South Korea) and Oliver’s Real Food Racing (Australia) in the race backed by major sponsors Cargohaus, NMM, UFL, Philippine Airlines, Collab Printing Solutions, Autonation, Orangefix and Phenom.