Battle of Whites: Aussie takes Le Tour’s Stage 2; Briton on top
Kristina Villanueva (The Philippine Star) - February 20, 2017 - 12:00am

NAGA CITY, Philippines – Sean Whitfield of Australia’s Oliver’s Real Food Racing outsprinted a slew of rivals at the finish to rule Stage Two of the eighth Le Tour de Filipinas through Albay and Camarines Sur yesterday.

Whitfield logged 4:19:21, the same time posted by all 26 riders in the pack, including Stage One winner Daniel Whitehouse at 20th, to clinch lap honors and improve his 32nd ranking on Saturday.

Sanghong Park of Korea’s LX Cycling Team and Spanish Fernando Grijalba of Kuwait Cartucho.Es edged Benjamin Hill of Attaque Team Gusto and Bridgestone Anchor’s Cycling Team Ryu Suzuki to finish second and third, respectively.

It was actually 21-year-old Whitfield’s fellow Aussie Jai Crawford of Japan’s Kinan Cycling Team who seized control early, breaking away from the pack along with Korean Bae Daekhyon of LX Cycling Team and Japanese Jin Okubo of Bridgestone Anchor Cycling Team at the 10-km mark of the 177.35-km race.

Okubo, Bae and Crawford were the first three to cross the one-km intermediate sprint at the 58.90-km distance before Crawford gained ground to take the solo lead at the 61-km mark in Tabaco City.

Crawford, fifth placer in the opening leg, built a five-minute and 42 second lead heading to the Category 3 3-km King of the Mountain summit at the 104.15-km mark which he dominated as well as the second sprint at the 135.07-km distance. The main peloton, however, which included Whitfield and yellow jersey holder Whitehouse, caught up with him at the 145-km mark.

It was a long ascent and descent to and from the KOM spot which started at Joroan town at the 91.74-km mark and ended at Sagñay town at 129.45-km, marked by narrow winding roads on the mountainside that faced a long windy coastline and marred by rain.

“After the KOM, we were descending down the winding roads in the rain and I was a bit nervous through there. I would say that was the most difficult part, trying to keep your head on. The rain really made it hard especially on the downhills. I had a little moment; I almost put it down but I should keep myself up so that was good,” said Whitfield, whose career best stage finish was third in Stage Three of the UCI 2.2 New Zealand Cycle Classic prior to today’s feat.

Whitehouse held on to the yellow jersey after clocking an aggregate of 08:15:24 for the first two stages while firming up his hold of the red (King of the Mountain), green (points classification) and white (Best Young Rider) jerseys.  

But Whitfield bolstered his bid, climbing to third in the Best Young Rider general classification while logging second in the points classification overall heading to today’s Stage Three, a 177.35-km race from Naga to Daet.

Rustom Lim bucked a poor first stage showing marred by mechanical woes to become best Filipino rider in the stage at 4:19:21.

Galedo checked in two minutes and 13 seconds later for second but he remained as the best Filipino rider in the general classification at 08:27:02 ahead of Lim’s 08:34:01 two-stage total.

7-Eleven Roadbike Philippines held on to the third spot of the team general classification category (25:10:26) next to Japan’s Team Ukyo and Kinan Cycling Team, despite failing to barge in on the top three in this stage namely LX Cycling Team, Ukyo and Kinan Cycling.

Meanwhile, national team bets George Oconer, Mervin Corpuz and Ryan Cayubit all rebounded from so-so stints in the opening stage, moving from 52nd to 34th, 43rd to 35th, and 54th to 44th respectively.

Jerry Aquino, however, slid from 55th to 56th while John Mier crashed at the descent from the KOM but quickly recovered after merely sustaining scrapes and bumps. He arrived 25 minutes and 54 seconds behind the top finisher and ended up last at 67th from yesterday’s 61st finish.

Four cyclists have dropped out of the race yesterday while one failed to finish after cut-off time today, reducing the starting 72-rider field.

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