NAGA City: Australian Sean Whitfield let his young legs do the heavy work when it mattered most to win by a wheel Stage Two of the Le Tour de Filipinas that pedaled through unfamiliar territory in Albay and Camarines Sur on Sunday.
Whitfield booked his first stage victory in an International Cycling Union (UCI) race in the 177.35-kilometer stage of the event presented by Air21, clocking four hours, 19 minutes and 21 seconds—the same time registered by 25 other riders, including general classification (GC) leader Daniel Whitehouse of Great Britain.
LX Cycling Team’s Sanghong Park (Korea) finished second in the stage, followed by Spain’s Fernando Grualba (Kuwait Cartucho.Es) at third.
A year younger than Whitehouse at 21, Whitfield positioned himself well at the tip of the bunch as it passed the red kite that denotes the final kilometer to give Australian Club Oliver’s Real Food Racing its first stage victory since its Le Tour de Filipinas debut last year.
“Sprinting is a little bit my specialty,” said Whitfield, who also flashed potential climbing skills over the hills connecting Albay and Camarines Sur that offers a picturesque view of the Lagonoy Gulf. “I and my teammates made our attack in the final 10 kms but entering the final 300 meters, I went for the win and held on.”
Kinan Cycling Team’s Jai Crawford (Australia) initiated a three-man breakaway and was solo the leader for more than 80 kms. He was first in the KOM but was a poor rider in the descent and was swallowed by the rampaging peloton in the final 30 kms.
And that’s where the teamwork—and sprinting—came to play.
Whitehouse maintained his 1:57 GC lead over countryman Benjamin Hill of Ataque Team Gusto and 1:58 over Japanese Ryu Suzuki (Bridgestone) in the top 10 halfway through the race supported by Petron and UPS as principal sponsors and Philippine Airlines as official airline partner.
Stage Two saw a mild change in the composition of the top 10 in the GC with Fernando Grualba (Spain, Kuwait Cartucho.Es) jumping from ninth to fourth (2:00 behind), Jai Crawford (Australia, Kinan) staying at fifth (2:00), Eiichi Hirai (Japan, Ukyo) improving from seventh to sixth (2:04), Nathan Earle (Australia, Ukyo) rising from 10th to seventh (2:04), Salvador Guardiola (Spain, Ukyo) dropping from fourth to eighth (2:04), 2015 champion Thomas Lebas (France, Kinan) being relegated from sixth to ninth (2:04) and Edgar Nohales Nieto (Spain, 7 Eleven Roadbike Philippines) from eighth to 10th (2:04).
The Filipino riders fared poorly in Day Two. Mark Galedo, the winner in 2014, crossed the finish in Stage Two at 33rd place, 2:13 after Whitfield, to drop two spots down to 15th position with an 11:38 deficit to the leader.
Ruston Lim (7 Eleven Roadbike) was two ranks further at 17th in the GC while his teammate, Arjay Peralta was at 22nd spot. The Philippine National Team members could not get their rhythm and were further down the GC—Mervin Corpuz (38), George Oconer (39), Boots Ryan Cayubit (48), Jerry Aquino Jr. (62nd) and John Renee Mier (66th).
Mark Julius Bonzo, riding for Laos-based team CCN, was in 63rd place.