THIRTY Filipinos led by national champion Jan Paul Morales will mix it up with 50 foreign riders in a bigger Ninth Le Tour de Filipinas that kicks off this Sunday from the Quezon Memorial Circle in Quezon City and finished in Burnham Park in Baguio City on Wednesday.
Morales, leader of the Philippine Navy-Standard Insurance team, rides alongside Ronald Oranza, a fellow grizzled rider in the race co-presented by Air21, Cignal and Cargohaus Inc. and organized by Ube Media Inc.
“We will give our best in the Le Tour. We have been training hard and we will surely give the foreigners a tough fight,” said the 32-year-old Morales three days before the four-stage International Cycling Union race returns up north in the co-called Cradle of Philippine Cycling.
There are 17 teams in the Le Tour de Filipinas this year, up by two from the traditional 15-squad roster of the event that is also sanctioned by the PhilCycling, the national federation for the sport headed by its president Tagaytay City Rep. Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino and chairman Alberto Lina, acknowledged as the godfather of Philippine cycling.
“This will be an exciting edition of the Le Tour de Filipinas because there are more Filipino riders seeing action this time around,” said Tolentino, also the chairman of the Philippine Olympic Committee.
The other Filipinos to watch are Marcelo Felipe, Rustom Lim and 2014 champion Mark John Lexer Galedo of 7-Eleven Cliqq Roadbike Philippines, Mark Julius Bonzo and Alfie Catalan of Team CCN Philippines, Ronnel Hualda and Boots Ryan Cayubit of Go For Gold, George Oconer and Jerry Aquino Jr. of the Philippine National Team and Lloyd Lucien Reynante, who is coming out of retirement to lead Bike Extreme Philippines with Chris Joven.
The foreign teams include Terrenganu Cycling Team (Malaysia), Pishgaman Cycling Team (Iran), Nice Devo Cycling Team (Mongolia), Interpro Cycling Academy (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) and Uijeongbu Cycling Team (South Korea).
Stage 1 on Sunday will cover 157.50 kms from the Liwasang Aurora at the Quezon Memorial Circle to Nueva Ecija’s capital of Palayan City, and Stage 2 will bring the cyclists from Cabanatuan City to Bayombong, Nueva Vizcaya, on Monday 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, and finally, Stage 4 will be 154.65 kms from Lingayen to Baguio City with a treacherous and back-breaking climb on Kennon Road.