ERIC Timothy Sheppard launched his attack with about 60 kilometers to race and went on a solo ride to the finish in Olongapo City, well ahead of his pursuers and well clear of a crash that marred the opening stage of the 2014 Le Tour de Filipinas on Monday.
The Australian rider finished the 160-kilometer ride from Clark in four hours, three minutes and 52 seconds to take the yellow jersey in the 13-nation, 15-team race.
Two minutes and 40 seconds later, the five-man chase crossed the finish line, with the United Arab Emirates’ Mirza Alhammadi taking runner-up honors for the day.
Korea’s Soonyeong Kwon of the KSPO Continental Team was third to check in, but immediately crashed into a group of photographers and spectators that breached the barriers and lingered in the braking zone.
Kwon was thrown a good five meters and sustained injuries that could render for naught his impressive ride. The Korean topped two of the three climbs to take the lead in the race for the King of the Mountain title.
Josh Albelda, a photographer for Rappler.com, was knocked unconscious and suffered bruises, while the Business Mirror’s Alysa Salen, also a photographer, fractured her left shoulder. Albelda underwent a CT scan to determine the extent of his injuries even as race officials said “he has remained conscious all this time.”
A review of a video taken at the finish line showed that Albelda and Salen, together with about 15 others, breached the barriers and crossed over into the middle of the road right after Sheppard finished, leaving a gap of only three meters wide for the second pack to pass.
“I stuck it out with the lead pack and went all out after the third climb. Happy to come up with the win, being a newcomer in the race,” said the 23-year old Sheppard.
All eyes will now be on the 23-year-old rider as the pack rides 175 kms to Cabanatuan City, Nueva Ecija on Tuesday.
Mark Julius Bordeos of the 7-Eleven Continental Team was eighth overall, four minutes and 10 seconds off the stage winner, to take the top spot in the Philippines classification of the four-stage race presented by Air21 and supported by Smart, NLEX, SCTEX, TPLEX, BCDA, Petron, Victory Liner and M. Lhuillier.