AFTER five long years, veteran rider Cris Joven was back racing in Le Tour de Filipinas and he was in a pretty good position to win his first stage in the tournament.
And then just like the case for Filipinos everywhere, it was traffic that spoiled all of his plans.
Joven was part of the three-man breakaway group around the 68th kilometer before chief commissaire Louise Jones stopped the race for good following five neutralizations due to ‘unmanageable traffic.’
Now Joven is left to focus on three tough next stages.
"Oo, makadagdag to ng kumpyansa sa Stage Two kasi para sa akin ngayon lang ulit ako nakapagkarera ng Le Tour de Filipinas," said Joven, now with Bike Extreme Philippines following stints with 7-Eleven and the Army.
He is back racing in the only UCI-sanctioned road race in the country, after concentrating on a local race the past few years.
"Kaya parang sabik ako makalaban ng international. Mas pride ba o mas challenged ako kapag ibang lahi ang kalaban," he added.
Joven believes that Iran’s Pishgaman Cycling Team provide the biggest challenge for Filipino riders, particularly when it comes to climbs and he believes the climb to Baguio will decide the race co-presented by Air 21, Cignal and Cargo Haus.
"Ang malupit talaga dyan kapag dating sa kabundukan yung Iran. Yun ang pinaka-itinuturing na kalaban dyan. Kasi malalakas umahon yan eh sa paakyat," said the 31-year-old rider from Bicol.
"Yan ang deciding factor talaga ng karera, yung last Stage pa rin sa Baguio," he added.
Still, Joven remains confident that his skills and familiarity of the terrain and the weather give him an edge.
"Ganun pa rin bukas. Diskarte lang muna kasi hindi naman lahat ng karera, lakas sa lakas eh. Kaya kung mas malakas sila, yung diskarte di nauubos pero yung lakas nauubos," said Joven.
"Diskartehan mo nalang sila kasi mas malalakas sila."