World watches as Le Tour unfurls

THE Philippines returns to its spot on the world cycling map anew tomorrow when the eighth edition of the Le Tour de Filipinas is flagged off from Legazpi City in Albay to Sorsogon.

The Le Tour de Filipinas is the only International Cycling Union (UCI) road race in the country and is the kickoff race of the Asia Tour season.

Tagaytay City Rep. Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino, president of the national sports association for the sport, PhilCycling, acknowledged the importance of the race organized by Ube Media Inc. and presented by Air21.

“Again, it is an honor for the country through the Le Tour de Filipinas to host this annual UCI-sanctioned race participated by international cyclists,” Tolentino said. “The race not only tests our Filipino riders but to watch the skills of the foreign cyclists and to promote tourism.”

This year also marks the second decade since the country hosted its first UCI race in 1996, when the local multistage road race was called the Marlboro Tour. Victor Espiritu won that foreign team-laced race as an amateur with Hong Kong star Wong Kam Po winning the following year.

The Centennial Tour, aptly named to celebrate the country’s 100th celebration of Independence Day in 1998, saw Warren Davadilla claiming the trophy. But that was to be the last of the Marlboro Tour era following the enforcement of antitobacco laws in sports and other advertising platforms.

All teams have been accounted for the race, which has Petron and UPS as principal sponsors and Philippine Airlines as official airline partner, in Legazpi City  with the 75 cyclists warming up on the Albay capital’s roads with the majestic Mayon Volcano as backdrop.

Tomorrow, the cyclists will be flagged off at 8 a.m. by Ube Media President Donna May Lina, Legazpi City Mayor Noel Rosal, Albay Gov. Al Francis Bichara and PhilCycling Chairman Bert Lina for the 164.49-km Legazpi City to Sorsogon Stage One.

Sunday’s Stage Two of the event, backed by Advanced Solutions Inc., Cargohaus Inc. CCN Sports Philippines, IWMI, NMM Customs Broker, Phenom Sportswear, UFL Philippines and WARM, will cover 177.35 km from Sorsogon to Daet, while Stage Three on Monday is interestingly also 177.35 kms from Sorsogon to Naga City.

The 15 teams—13 foreign and two locals—will wrap up their campaign with the long 210-km northward Stage Four from Daet to Lucena City.

The Philippine National Team and 7-Eleven Roadbike Philippines will lead the local challenge against foreign squads Kinan Cycling Team (Japan), Team Ukyo (Japan), Bridgestone Anchor Cycling Team (Japan), Terengganu Cycling Team (Malaysia), LX Pro Cycling Team (South Korea), Uzbekistan National Team, CCN Cycling Team (Laos), Keyi Look Sport Cycling Team (China), United Arab Emirates National Team, Attaque Team Gusto (Chinese Taipei), Kuwait Cartucho.ES (Kuwait) and Sapura Cycling Team (Malaysia).