LEGAZPI City, Albay, Philippines – The Le Tour de Filipinas fires off today here with former champion Mark Galedo of 7-Eleven Sava Roadbike Philippines and the national team slugging it out with 13 crack foreign squads in the eighth edition of what has become one of the region’s top races.
Galedo seeks to regain the crown he won in 2014 but the veteran campaigner will not only have to buck the elite field but also steer a depleted 7-Eleven side, which is fielding in one rider short of the five-to-a-team roster in the 726.54-km race dubbed as “8’s Amazing!”
“I wanted to win the crown again,” said the 31-year-old Galedo, who with teammate Rustom Lim rode against Tour de France champion Chris Froome in the Herald Sun Tour two weeks ago.
Others in the team are RJ Peralta and Spain’s Edgar Nieto with Galedo out to duplicate his previous feat and give the country its third crown overall after Baler Ravina topped the UCI Category 2.2 race five years ago.
Also in the national team are George Oconer, John Renee Mier, Jerry Aquino Jr., Ryan Cayubit and Mervin Corpuz.
Focus will also be on 2015 champion Frenchman Thomas Lebas, back in the hunt with Japan’s Kinan Cycling Team after foiling Galedo’s title retention drive, along with Team Ukyo and Bridgestone Anchor Cycling Team (Japan), Terengganu Cycling Team (Malaysia), LX Pro Cycling Team (South Korea), CCN Cycling Team (Laos), Keyi Look Sport Cycling Team (China), Attaque Team Gusto (Chinese Taipei), Kuwait Cartucho.ES (Kuwait), Sapura Cycling Team (Malaysia), Uzbekistan National Team, the Oliver’s Real Food Racing from Australia and the United Arab Emirates National Team.
The field will tackle a reverse route from last year’s Antipolo-Lucena-Daet-Legazpi legs, guaranteeing more ascents as the race kicks off its 164.50-km Stage One today from here to Sorsogon with Mayon Volcano and Mount Bulusan as backdrops.
Stage Two will be a 177.35-km ride from Sorsogon to Naga while Stage Three will cover the same distance from Naga to Daet on Monday. The tour winds up with a 207.35-km race from Daet to Lucena on Tuesday.
Oleg Zemlyakov and his Vino 4-Ever SKO team will not be around to defend their individual and team titles as the Kazakhs had since gone up the UCI Road ladder after topping the event last year.
The event is organized by Ube Media Inc. under Donna May Lina and which has Petron and UPS as principal sponsors and Philippine Airlines as official airline partner.
The field is not only vying for cash prizes but also for UCI ranking points, this being the only International Cycling Union (UCI) road race in the country which also serves as part of the qualifying for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and the World Championships.