FOR the first time in Philippine Tour history, Epifanio de los Santos Avenue — or Edsa — will play a major role as the Le Tour de Filipinas kicks off its ninth edition along the country’s busiest major highway on Sunday (May 20).
From the Liwasang Aurora start inside the Quezon Memorial Circle in Quezon City, 85 cyclists comprising 17 teams will pedal over the Elliptical Road and through Quezon Avenue before negotiating Edsa toward Monumento in Caloocan City for the race’s neutral zone that covers 9.5 kilometers.
Ably assisting the race entourage is the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA), headed by Chairman Danilo D. Lim, whose men in blue vowed to control traffic flow without disturbing movement of vehicles.
The 157.50-kilometer Stage 1 to Palayan City of the race co-presented by Air21, Cignal and Cargohaus Inc. and organized by Ube Media Inc. will be flagged off at 8 a.m. The race column is expected to complete the Edsa neutral ride under 30 minutes.
“Edsa is historic in many ways, but with the traffic conditions on the highway, especially at rush hour, and the concerns over clean air, it would be a milestone for the Le Tour de Filipinas to expand its advocacy on the major thoroughfare,” said Alberto Lina, PhilCycling chairman and the acknowledged godfather of Philippine cycling.
The first of four stages of the International Cycling Union (ICC) race will also tackle the McArthur Highway, the major artery that connects Metro Manila to Central and Northern Luzon before the expressways, particularly the North Luzon Expressway, were built.
Adding interest to the Le Tour de Filipinas are the non-bicycle and non-cyclist components of the event.
The entire race entourage consists of 416 personnel — from the cyclists down to the ground crew which takes care of the barriers and gantries — and 129 vehicles (44 motorcycles with a minimum of 400cc displacement, 36 cars/sedans, 39 SUVs/vans, nine trucks and one bus).
Stage 2 on Monday will bring the cyclists from Cabanatuan City to Bayombong, Nueva Vizcaya, on covering 157.90 kms with a climb over Dalton Pass.
Tuesday's Stage 3 is the longest at 185.20 kms from Bambang, Nueva Vizcaya, to Lingayen, Pangasinan while Stage 4 will be 154.65 kms from Lingayen to Baguio City via Kennon Road.
The roster is up by two teams this year with 17 — 11 foreign and six local. These are 7-Eleven Cliqq Roadbike Philippines, Team CCN Philippines, Go For Gold, Philippine National Team, Bike Extreme Philippines, Standard Insurance-Navy, Terrenganu Cycling Team (Malaysia), Pishgaman Cycling Team (Iran), Nice Devo Cycling Team (Mongolia), Interpro Stradalli Cycling Team (Japan), Oliver’s Real Food Racing (Australia), Korail Cycling Team (South Korea), Team Sapura Cycling Team (Malaysia), Ningxia Sports Lottery Livall Cycling Team (China), KFC Cycling Team (Indonesia), Uijeongbu Cycling Team (South Korea) and Forca Amskins Racing (Malaysia).