BALANGA, Bataan — Defending individual champion Mark Galedo gears up for a tough title defense with the return of Iranian former titlists in the 2015 Le Tour de Filipinas firing off on Sunday.
After ruling last year’s edition of the four-stage international race with without any Iranian standout or team participating, the top Filipino cyclist expects to have his hands full against 2013 titlist Ghader Mizbani of Iranian powerhouse continental team Tabriz Petrochemical Team and Pishgaman Yzad Pro Cycling Team’s Rahim Emami, the 2011 champion.
Another Iranian in current Asian No.1 Mirsamad Poorseyediholakhour is also among Galedo’s top threats in the sixth edition of the competition presented by Air21 and co-presented by the MVP Sports Foundation and Smart.
[See Asian No. 1, two former champions lead Iranian contingent looking to dominate Le Tour de Filipinas]
“Mahirap kasi malalakas ang mga kalaban lalo na yung mga Iranians,” said the 24-year-old Galedo, who has now heeded the call of national duty as the top bet of the Philcycling men’s team after riding for 7-Eleven Road Bike Philippines last year.
But even with a different uniform, Galedo has the same exact goal of reigning supreme as he now links up with compatriots Ronald Lomotos, George Oconer, Asian Games campaigner Ronald Oranza, and Jun Rey Navarra.
“Tiwala ako na hindi ako pababayaan ng mga teammates ko,” Galedo said ahead of the flag off for the 126-kilometer Balanga-Balanga Stage One of the International Cycling Union Asia Tour race.
“Pinaghandaan namin mabuti ito,” he added of the event also supported by Victory Liner, San Mig Zero, Novo Nordisk Pharmaceuticals Philippines, and Canon with Isuzu, MAN Truck and Bus, Viking Rent-A-Car and NLEX as road partners. “Huwag lang magpabaya kahit sino sa amin, may tsansa.”
Without Galedo, 7-Eleven opens its title-retention bid of the overall team championship leaning on Filipino 2012 individual titlist Baler Ravina, Marcelo Felipe and Ryan Butch Cayubit, along with two Spaniards.
Team Novo Nordisk (USA), RTS Santic Racing Team (Taiwan), Attaque Team Gusto (Taiwan), Singha Infinite Cycling Team (Thailand), Navitas Satalyst Racing Team (Australia), and CCN Cycling Team (Brunei) are among the teams seeking to dethrone 7-Eleven.
Pegasus Continental Cycling Team (Indonesia), Terengganu Cycling Team (Malaysia), Bridgestone Anchor Cycling Team (Japan), Pishgaman Yzad Pro Cycling Team (Iran), and Tabriz Petrochemical Team (Iran) are also vying for the crown.
Aside from the Philippine team, the national squads of Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan are also participating, completing the 15-team race organized by the Donna Lina-Flavier-headed Ube Media Inc., and the brainchild of cycling patron, PhilCycling and Air21 chairman Bert Lina.