MANILA, Philippines -- Only 10 local riders will be holding fort against a slew of dreaded foreign riders 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.
But the so-called “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.
For one, 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.
Moreover, 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.
Meanwhile, 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, the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX), Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEX), Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway (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 NLEX, SCTEX and the brand-new TPLEX.
The bulk of the foreign squads—nine continental, three clubs and the national team of the United Arab Emirates—will be arriving in Clark on Black Saturday.