A STRONG Iranian contingent looks to rule the roads with two former champions and Asia’s No. 1 vying for top honors in the 2015 Le Tour de Filipinas that fires off in two weeks in Bataan.
Rahim Emami, the 2011 champion now racing for Pishgaman Yzad Pro Cycling Team, and 2013 winner Ghader Mizbani look to regain the crown in the four-stage International Cycling Union Asia Tour race.
Giving further boost to the Iranian delegation — and posing a huge threat to Mark Galedo’s title-retention bid — is the presence of Mirsamad Poorseyediholakhour, Mizbani’s teammate at Tabriz Petrochemical Team who finished No. 1 in the Asia Tour ranking in 2014.
Mizbani is ranked No. 6 and Emami No. 9, while the Philipines’ Galedo is No. 67, the best-placed Filipino, on the UCI Asia Tour ranking.
The sixth edition of the Le Tour is the first for 2015 on the UCI’s Asia Tour calendar. The race, marking 60 years of multi-stage road racing in the country, fires off on February 1 with the 126-km Balanga-Balanga (Bataan) Stage One, followed by the 153.75-km Balanga-Iba (Zambales) Stage Two, 149.34-km Iba-Lingayen (Pangasinan) Stage Three and the 101-km Lingayen-Baguio City Stage Four.
Fifteen teams — 13 continental and three national teams — battle in Le Tour presented by Air21 and co-presented by the MVP Sports Foundation and Smart, organized by Ube Media headed by Donna Lina-Flavier with Victory Liner, San Mig Zero, Novo Nordisk Pharmaceuticals Phils. and Canon as major sponsors.
US Team Novo Nordisk — the first professional cycling team composed of riders with Type 1 Diabetes — is also seeing action along with Taiwan’s RTS Santic Racing Team and Attaque Team Gusto, Thailand’s Singha Infinite Cycling Team and the Kazakhstan National Team.
The returning teams are the Navitas Satalyst Racing Team of Australia, CCN Cycling Team of Brunei, Pegasus Continental Cycling Team of Indonesia, Uzbekistan National Team, Terengganu Cycling Team of Malaysia, Bridgestone Anchor Cycling Team of Japan and Team 7-Eleven Roadbike Philippines and the Philippine National Team.
The 2014 Le Tour has Isuzu, MAN Truck and Bus, Viking Rent-A-Car and NLEX as road partners, Manila Bulletin, Philippine Star, Philippine Daily Inquirer, Business Mirror, MultiSport Magazine, Sports Digest, Hola! Magazine, Panahon TV, PTV Sports, dzSR Sports Radio, OrangeFix and GMA-7 as media partners.
It is also supported by the Philippine National Red Cross and the local governments of Balanga, Iba, Zambales, Lingayen, Pangasinan and Baguio City as well as the Bureau of Customs and Immigration, and the Departments of Foreign Affairs, Interior and Local Government, Health and Public Works and Highways and the Manila International Airport Authority and the Philippine National Police.