ONLY 10 local riders will be holding fort against a slew of dreaded foreign riders but surely they will be fighting all out for Filipino pride and glory in the 2014 Le Tour de Filipinas that hits the road on April 21 from Clark in Pampanga and winds up in Baguio City on April 24.
The “Magic 10” from continental team 7-Eleven Road Bike Philippines and Philippine Navy-Standard Insurance are no pushovers in the four-stage race presented by Air21 and co-organized by Ube media.
First, a couple of former two-time Philippine Tour champions and one ex-Padyak Pinoy titlist are on the roster—7-Eleven Road Bike’s Mark Galedo and Philippine Navy Standard Insurance’s Santy Barnachea and Joel Calderon.
And second, 2012 Le Tour de Filipinas winner Jonifer “Baler” Ravina also of 7-Eleven Road Bike is expected to summon the strength and determination that made the country proud two years ago in the only Philippine race that is officially on the International Cycling Union Asian Tour calendar.
Completing the 7-Eleven Road Bike crew are equally grizzled veterans Cris Joven, Marcelo Felipe and Mark Julius Bordeos.
The Philippine Navy-Standard Insurance team backed by Judes Echauz and coached by former Marlboro Tour champion Bernardo Llentada is also made up of the unbreakable Lloyd Lucien Reynante, Jorge Oconer and John Renee Mier.
Supported principally by Smart, Nlex, Sctex, Tplex, Bcda, Petron and Victory Liner, the 2014 Le Tour de Filipinas will kick off with a 160-kilometer Clark to Olongapo City Stage One, proceed with a 170-km Stage Two from Olongapo City to Cabatuan City on April 22, go eastward in a 146.6-km Stage Three to Bayombong, Nueva Viscaya, on April 3, and finally make the treacherous climb on a roller-coaster 134-km Stage Four to Burnham Park in Baguio City on April 24.
The Le Tour de Filipinas’s signature “Northern Alps” final stage remains as the most decisive, but for this fifth edition, organizer Jerry Jara, also the president of Air21, added spice to the event with the so-called Triple X which brings the 85 cyclists from the two local and 13 foreign teams racing over the North Luzon Expressway, Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway and the brand-new Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway.