THE 2015 Le Tour de Filipinas embraces an emotional and patriotic theme to honor the 44 Special Action Force troopers who lost their lives in the line of duty when the sixth edition of the four-stage international race hits the road on Sunday.
The race being dubbed “The Tour for Heroes” fires off in Bataan, where Filipino soldiers battled Japanese forces in World War II.
“To start the 2015 Le Tour in Bataan at a time the nation is in mourning for the 44 slain SAF forces in Mamasapano [Maguindanao] inspires us to dedicate the race to our fallen heroes,” said Donna Lina Flavier, president of race organizer Ube Media Inc.
“The Le Tour de Filipinas is not only about sports and competition, it’s about fostering lasting peace among nations through cycling,” Lina-Flavier added.
Prayers will be offered on Sunday morning prior to the flag off for the Balanga-Balanga 126-kilometer Stage One of the International Cycling Union Asia Tour race.
Heading the Philippine campaign in the 15-team race — 13 of them foreign squads — are defending champion Mark John Lexer Galedo of PhilCycling’s national team and Baler Ravina, the 2012 winner racing for 7-Eleven Road Bike Philippines.
Galedo and Ravina, and the six other Filipino riders in the mix will race against top opposition including two Iranian teams that also boasts of two former champions and Asia’s No. 1 in the UCI rankings.
“We cannot promise anything but what is definite is that I and my teammates will do our best,” said Galedo, who noted that in the two years — 2012 and 2014 — that the Le Tour was won by a Filipino, no Iranian team participated.
Iranian powerhouse continental team Tabriz Petrochemical Team is parading 2013 titlist Ghader Mizbani while Pishgaman Yzad Pro Cycling Team has lined up 2011 champion Rahim Emami and the continent’s top-ranked road rider Mirsamad Poorseyediholakhour in the race presented by Air21 and co-presented by the MVP Sports Foundation and Smart and 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.