MANILA, Philippines – Although outnumbered and lacking in international exposure and training, Filipino cyclists proved they could vie on the global stage after pulling off stunning results in the just-concluded 2012 Le Tour de Filipinas.
Air21 chairman and cycling godfather Bert Lina and Gary Cayton, president of the organizing Dynamic Outsource Solutions, Inc., were all praises for the grit and determination shown by local cyclists, who upset a foreign field in the four-stage Le Tour sanctioned by the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI).
“It is a plain and simple proof that the Filipino cyclist could be at par not only with Asia’s best, but with the world’s,” said Lina, whose Air21 was the presentor of the Le Tour.
Cayton commended the Filipino cyclists, especially overall winner Baler Ravina and stage winners Oscar Rendole (first) of Mail and More, Arnel Quirimit (second) also of Go21 and Joel Calderon (third) also of Mail and More.
“The possibility of producing world-class Filipino cyclists has presented itself in this Le Tour,” he said.
The Le Tour started in Sta. Ana, Cagayan and had stops in Tuguegarao City, Cauayan in Isabela and Bayombong City in Nueva Viscaya, before making its traditional finish at the Burnham Park in Baguio City.
Ravina, the pride of Asingan, Pangasinan, and perhaps the country’s strongest climber, made Philippine cycling history by becoming the first Filipino to win a UCI race, beating Terengganu Cycling Team’s Loh Sea Kong of Malaysia by 16 seconds.
Not only did Ravina accomplish a first for Philippine cycling—Rendole, Quirimit and Calderon’s stage wins were firsts in a UCI race and so was LPGMA-American Vinyl youngster Rustom Lim, who became the first Filipino to win the Young Rider’s trophy also in an international race.
The Filipino cyclists were outnumbered in the Le Tour staged in partnership with Smart and supported by Jinbei and Foton and backed by Wet Shop.
Scattered in five teams—the others being Smart-PhilCycling and Kia—they had to contend with 11 foreign squads which do not only compete frequently overseas but have their cyclists ride sophisticated and expensive bikes and undergo scientific training.
Tagaytay City Mayor Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino, the PhilCycling president, was at the Burnham Park finish and was amazed with the result that also saw four other Filipinos wresting spots in the top 10.
“This is amazing, and this is a big progress in Philippine cycling,” said Tolentino.