STA. ANA – Around eighty local and international cyclists are set to embark on Stage One of the 2012 Le Tour de Filipinas from the coastal town in Cagayan on Saturday.
The first of four stages will consist of a 159.8-km, mostly flat ride from the starting point in Sta. Ana to the finish line in front of the Tuguegarao City Hall in the Cagayan capital city.
The race will begin with Cagayan Rep. Jack Enrile firing the starting gun alongside cycling godfather Bert Lina and wife Sylvia, who also represent Le Tour sponsor Air21, and race organizer Gary Cayton of Dynamic Outsource Solutions, Inc.
Stage Two on Sunday will again be mostly flat as the riders from 16 teams make their way to Cauayan City in Isabela 103.3 kms away. The third stage – 104 kms between Cauayan and Bayombong City in Nueva Vizcaya – will see the first King of the Mountain summit of the 2012 tour.
The final stage will be a grueling ride over the Cordilleras and will feature two KOM summits as the riders depart for the iconic summer capital Baguio City, the final destination of the Le Tour.
The 2012 Le Tour will feature 11 foreign teams and five local ones as the riders duke it out for the top stage and overalls prizes. Continental teams CCN Cycling Tean (Netherlands), OCBC Singapore, Aisan Racing Team from Japan, Uzbekistan Suren of Uzbekistan, Terengganu Cycling Team from Malaysia and Action Cycling Team from Chinese Taipei will take the stage beside club teams Plan B Racing Team from Australia, PureBlack Racing (New Zealand), Dutch Global Team (Netherlands) and Colossi Miche of Indonesia. The Indonesian National Team is also participating in the race under the Yogyakarta banner.
The local teams that are taking part are SMART-PhilCycling National Team, LPGMA-American Vinyl, Go21, Mail & More and KIA, which is represented by members of the Philippine Navy.
A team backed by SMART finished third in the team standings in the 2011 Le Tour behind Iranian team Azad University and local team 7-Eleven. This year, SMART-PhilCycling is bannered by former 7-Eleven riders Lloyd Lucien Reynante, who was the top Filipino finisher in last two installments of the Le Tour, and John Mark Galedo. Reynante finished sixth overall last year behind five foreign riders.
Go21 will have two former champions of the tour – Santy Barnachea and Arnel Quirimit – when it went by a different name.
The initial leg will kick off at 8:30 a.m. with the mid-morning heat possibly becoming a factor. The temperature is expected to be in the mid-30s tomorrow.
“The heat could spell the difference and out local riders could have the slight advantage,” said Cayton. “But we just could not dismiss the endurance of the foreigners. They are a bunch who have seen tough and enduring races overseas.”
The Le Tour is presented by Air21 in partnership with SMART and supported by Foron and Jinbei. Other sponsors include Wet Shop, Maynilad, Nague Malic Magnawa & Associates Customs Brokers, Wow Videoke, UBE Media, IWMI, Airphil Express and dzRH.
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