PHILIPPINE entries 7-11 Road Bike cycling team and Navy-Standard Insurance will take on a host of fancied foreign riders when the 5th Le Tour de Filipinas takes center stage from April 21 to April 24.
The two local teams will fly the flag in the Air21-backed four-day event, the only Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI)-sanctioned race in the Philippines that is part of the Asia Tour program.
A total of US$16,540 (P744,300) will be at stake with US$950 going to the individual winner and US$550 going to the overall team champion.
Air21 president Jerry Jara said 7-11 and Philippine Navy passed the UCI standards to join international Le Tour summer event which will have 12 countries including the Philippines represented.
“Based on the UCI ruling, we should have at least majority of the international contingent. And based on this, we put the cream of the crop and 7-11 and Philippine Navy were chosen by UCI,” said Jara in a press conference held at the Manila Hotel.
Expected to compete for Philippine Navy-Standard Insurance are Lloyd Lucien Reynante, John Mier, Jan Paul Morales, and George Oconer. 7-11 has yet to determine its final lineup.
The two teams, however, face stiff opposition from Kazakhstan’s National Cycling Team and Track Team Astana, Attila Cycling Club of Mongolia, Satalyst Giant Racing Team of Australia, and Polygon Sweet Nice of Ireland.
Other teams include CCN Cycling Team of Brunei, Pegasus Continental Team of Indonesia, TSR Continental Team of Iran, Aisan Racing Team of Japan, and Team Ukyo of Japan.
Terengganu Pro Asia Cycling Team of Malaysia, OCBC Singapore Continental Cycling Team of Singapore, and United Arab Emirates cycling team round out the foreign squads competing in the race.
Le Tour commissaire Jose Adolfo Cruz expects a high-level cycling race.
“It’s going to be a big headache for us,” said Cruz. “Aside from the cyclists, you have team managers competing at the back. They are also fighting tooth and nail just to support their riders. This is hell for us but this is also going to be exciting.”
Air21 chairman Bert Lina sees a successful fifth edition of Le Tour.
“I look forward to a great race,” said Lina. “I would like to congratulate each and everyone for playing their roles in promoting the sport of cycling and showing that, yes, cycling is more fun in the Philippines.”
Stage One on April 21 covers 152.9 kilometers from Clark to Olongapo.
Stage Two will pass the so-called “Triple-X” traversing three expressways North Luzon Expressway (NLEX), Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEX), and Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union (TPLEX) on April 22, a 147-km race from Olongapo City to Cabanatuan City.
Stage Three on April 23 will be from Cabanatuan City to Bayombong, Nueva Ecija - a 146.6 kilometer trek passing the Sierra Madre via Dalton Pass.
The winner of the Le Tour could be decided in the final lap with the Bayombong to Baguio Stage Four on April 24, a 132.7 kilometer route that is easily one of the toughest cycling routes in the country.