Heavy traffic - on a Sunday - forces Le Tour bike race to scratch opening stage
Le Tour de Filipinas 2018 is reduced to three stages. Jham Mariano

PALAYAN City — The first stage of the Le Tour de Filipinas on Sunday was put to an unfortunate halt after organizers deemed the road unfavorable, ultimately scratching the leg altogether.

The 157.15-kilometer Quezon City to Nueva Ecija road race was restarted five times due to heavy traffic, starting from McArthur Highway where the peloton navigated Valenzuela and Bulacan.

The race was stopped for good in Arayat, Pampanga following heavy traffic in the area, reducing the multi-stage bike race co-presented by Air 21, Cignal and Cargo Haus to three stages.

At the time of the stoppage, two Filipinos were in the three-man breakaway group, with Cris Joven of Bike Extreme Philippines and Juan Barrios of CCN joining Korean Jiung Jang of Korail Cycling.

"May panghihinayang pero naisip ko na rin para sa safety. Kawawa naman ang nagagalit sa traffic, may panghihinayang pero okay lang din," said Joven after the race.

The same incident happened in 2016 when Stage One had to be scratched off due to heavy traffic and construction in Tiaong, Quezon.

Elite National Commissaire Lorenzo Lomibao Jr. explained that while there was coordination with the DPWH, they were caught off guard by the sudden road works of the MWSS.

This led to several obstructions and after five neutralizations, chief Commissaire Louise Jones decided to halt the race.

"The race was stopped for one reason. Unmanageable traffic which was rather surprising on a Sunday morning. The organizers made several trips here on a Sunday to test the traffic," said Lomibao.

"Sa first 20 kilometers pa lang, there were MWSS repairs and Bulacan suddenly made road repairs. (There was) coordination with DPWH for the road repairs. Pag may construction, they stop. This one we didn’t see coming because of MWSS," he added.

Nonetheless, the city of Palayan gave the delegation a warm welcome as the convoy was greeted by performances prepared for by the local government unit.

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Le Tour now focuses on Stage Two, a 157.9 kilometer road race from Cabanatuan City to Bayombong, Nueva Vizcaya.

This race will be highlighted by two King of the Mountain categories at the 81st and 92nd kilometers with elevation of 650 and 850 meters, respectively.

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