SEVENTY-FIVE riders hit the road on Thursday as Le Tour de Filipinas, the only International Cycling Union (UCI) race in the country, fires off in Antipolo City.
Twelve foreign teams and three local squads including the National Team of the PhilCycling, will race for four stages in the seventh edition of the bikathon presented by Air21 from Antipolo City to Lucena City and Daet in Camarines Norte, and finally in Legaspi City.
There are relatively no difficult climbs this time but the challenge is the distance, with 704.34 kilometers of racing in four days.
Frenchman Thomas Lebas who will be wearing race No. 001 as the defending champion from the Japan-based Bridgestone Anchor Cycling Team.
“With an average stage distance of 175 kilometers, this seventh edition of the Le Tour de Filipinas will showcase a lot of sprinting and will definitely bring out the best endurance riders in the field,” said Donna Lina, president of race organizer Ube Media Inc.
Providing the challenge to the grizzled Filipino riders are Team Novo Nordisk (USA), Kinan Cycling Team (Japan), Terrenganu Cycling Team (Malaysia), Hsyport Look Cycling Team (China), Team Ukyo (Japan), Dutch Global Cycling Team (Holland), Vinno 4-Ever Sko (Kazakhstan), Attaque Team Gusto (Chinese Taipei), Skydive Dubai Pro Cycling Team (UAE), LX-IIBS Cycling Team (South Korea) and Oliver’s Real Food Racing (Australia).
Heading the local charge in the race which has 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 are 7-Even SAVA RBP and Team Cebu Kopiko Philippines.
Stage One from Antipolo City to Lucena City on Thursday will take the riders to the so-called Metro Manila backdoor to Southern Luzon covering 153.53 kilometers, Stage Two on Friday from Lucena City to Daet will see the race go through the southern edge of the Sierra Madre mountain range for a distance of 204.82 km and Stage Three on Saturday from Daet to Legaspi City in Albay is 185.79-km long. On Sunday, the riders will circle majestic Mayon Volcano twice in a Legaspi-Legaspi 160.20-km grind.
Stage One will start from the Sumulong Park in front of the Antipolo City Hall and the Shrine of Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage. All stages will fire off at 8 a.m.