BAYOMBONG CITY – 19-year-old rider Azamat Turaev of Uzbekistan Suren Team turned in a strong performance in the third stage of the Le Tour de Filipinas as he crossed the finish line with a time of 2 hours, 23 minutes and 36 seconds, a full 15 seconds ahead of stage runner-up Feng Chun Kai of Action Cycling Team, here in Bayombong City in Nueva Vizcaya.
The stage was dominated by foreign riders, with the first six places going to cyclists from Uzbekistan, Chinese Taipei, Japan, Iran and Australia. Seventh-placer Paul Morales Jang of KIA was the top Filipino finisher as he led a group of 56 riders with the same time, 21 seconds behind the lap winner.
Japan’s Fukushima Shinichi of Terengganu Cycling ended up third with Turaev’s Uzbekistan Suren teammate Hamid Shirisisan of Iran, Ito Masakazu of Japanese team Aisan Racing and Australian Daniel Bonello of Plan B Racing all setting the same time. The main pack finished just four seconds later.
Turaev, a former member of the Uzbekistan junior national team that was recently promoted to the elite team, was part of a five-man lead group at the end of the 2012 tour’s first King of the Mountain (KOM) summit 68.3 kilometers into the 102.52-km stage that began in Cauayan City, Isabela.
Chinese Taipei’s Feng led Turaev and Fukushima at the first KOM to take the early lead in the race to be the best climber of the Le Tour and the polka dot jersey that goes with it.
At the last 20-km point, the lead pack was up to six riders, with a three-man chase group trailing a short distance behind. And with the peloton closing in on the leaders, Turaev made a solo break from the field in the last 3 km to win the stage.
The victory capped a strong showing for the Uzbekistan Suren team that has struggled with mechanical problems in the Le Tour. They placed riders in first and fourth in the third stage of the race.
“We had some problems today,” said Suren team manager Chaichi Raghimi Mostafa. “One rider broke his bike and I had to change it. If we don’t do that, maybe we have another place.”
“(Turaev) had no problems today, but in the first stage he had a problem, too. Today, it’s another rider.”
With majority of the riders coming in at close times in the stage, CCN Cycling Team’s Timo Scholz retained the yellow jersey and overall lead in the race.
“We know it was nearly impossible to defend the yellow jersey,” said Scholz. “But we know Plan B Racing (from Australia) was interested to have good position tomorrow and I think they can win and (BikeNZ-PureBlack rider James Williamson) is good enough to win also. So they were all interested that nobody has a time gap today. So it was a little bit of good luck that we corroborated with New Zealand and American Vinyl LPGMA and, of course, with Plan B so we keep the jersey.”
“Our boss will be happy with us.”
Scholz currently holds a three-stage time of 8:42:15 ahead of Plan B Racing’s Alexander Malone (8:42:41) and OCBC Singapore Continental’s Sea Keong Loh (8:42:50). Stage One winner Oscar Rendole of Mail and More sits at fourth overall while Turaev climbed to fifth.
Rendole is still the top Filipino rider with American Vinyl’s Rudy Roque, Go21’s Baler Ravina and second leg winner Arnel Quirimit, also of Go21, trailing behind him.
But with big climbs in Baguio that will raise the elevation level from a high of 1,312 feet in Stage Three to about 5,000 ft in Stage Four, huge times are expected to be made up by the field’s strongest climbers in the four-stage Le Tour de Filipinas.
The 132.7-km fourth stage will feature no less than three KOM summits before wrapping up at the finish line in Lake Drive at Burnham Park.
“Maybe tomorrow, that’s the second to win or lose,” said Scholz.
The German still isn’t confident that they can defend the yellow jersey a second time. He said that he wasn’t great at climbing and that it wasn’t his specialty, although his team manager doesn’t agree.
“He’s very good (in climbs),” said CCN Cycling team manager Andreas Koch.
“We want to win the yellow jersey tomorrow but we must see,” he added. “We hope we can win the race.”
Mail and More also retained its lead on the group standings with an overall time of 26:16:28 with fellow Filipino teams American Vinyl LPGMA (26:16:42) and Go21 (26:17:33) in second and third.
Uzbekistan Suren Team clocked in at 26:17:48 at fourth place and CCN (26:18:12) is at fifth.
The Le Tour is presented by Air21 in partnership with SMART and supported by Foton 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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