LEGAZPI City — Kazakh rider Oleg Zemlyakov of Vino 4-Ever SKO formally captured the 7th Le Tour de Filipinas crown at the end of the four-stage cycling event on Sunday held in this Albay capital.
A year after winning the Best Young Rider award in the sixth edition of Le Tour, the 22-year-old won it all this time, clocking a total of 17 hours, 36 minutes, 23 seconds to maintain his 19-second lead over teammate Yevgeniy Gidich for a 1-2 Kazakhstan finish in the race presented by Air21.
Zemlyakov, who also finish fifth in last year’s Le Tour, rode a calculated cruise in Stage Four won by Australian rider Timothy Guy of Attaque Team Gusto, staying in the peloton along with other close pursuers to maintain the gap despite minor damage to his wheel spokes and brakes in the final 30 kilometers of Stage Four.
“It’s for the team,” said Zemlyakov, whose Vino 4-Ever SKO squad also captured the team general classification crown of the race with Petron, MVP Sports Foundation, and Smart as principal sponsors and Cargohaus, NMM, UFL, Philippine Airlines, Collab Printing Solutions, Autonation, Orangefix and Phenom as major sponsors.
“Control the rider. Control the team gap,” said team manager Sergey Danniker, when asked about their strategy for Stage Four.
Mongolian rider Batmunkh Maral-Erdene of Terengganu Cycling Team nipped Australia’s Jesse James Ewart of Philippine-based 7-Eleven Sava RBP for the last podium spot by only one second with a time of 17:36:44.
Marcelo Felipe climbed to fifth in the individual general classification to become the best Filipino rider in the race, clocking 17:37:48. Rustom Lim of the Philippine national team clocked 17:38:27 to take ninth place.
Felipe attempted to close the gap early, winning the first intermediate sprint of the 160.2km Legazpi to Legazpi out-and-back, but eventually couldn’t overcome the big gap.
Danniker noted the difficulty for the Kazakh riders in winning the Le Tour de Filipinas, which has a 2.2 Union Cycliste Internationale rating.
“Difficult. Hot. Very hot. In my country, it’s winter. Minus 20. And now, it’s 30. It’s very difficult,” said Danniker.
Guy made a solo breakaway in the final five kilometers to clock 3:52:50 to take Stage Four honors, nine seconds ahead of the group of Cameron Bayly of Attaque Team Gusto, Jang Sun Jae of LX-IIBS Cycling team, and Stage Three winner Wesley Sulzberger of Kinan Cycling Team.
Filipino rider Ronnel Hualda of Kopiko Cebu won King of the Mountain honors, while Sulzberger took the topped the points classification.
Gidich received the Best Young Rider award during the ceremonies attended by Albay governor Joey Salceda and Legazpi mayor Noel Rosal.
The top riders after the final stage.
Oleg Zemlyakov 17:36:23, Yevgeniy Gidich 17:36:42 (+0:19), Batmunkh Maral-Erdene 17:36:44 (+0:21), Jesse James Ewart 17:36:45 (+0:22), Marcelo Felipe 17:37:45 (+1:22), Ryu Suzuki 17:37:48 (+1:25), Salvador Guardiola Tora 17:37:48 (+1:25), Kenji Itami 17:37:48 (+1:25), Rustom Lim 17:38:27 (+2:04), Suryadi Dadi 17:38:30 (+2:07).