MANILA, Philippines – Jonifer "Baler" Ravina opens his quest for a second Le Tour de Filipinas crown as the country’s only race sanctioned by the International Cycling Union (UCI) unfurls its fifth edition on Monday from Clark, Pampanga.
The grizzled veteran from Asingan, Pangasinan vowed to duplicate his championship feat in 2012, but the soft-spoken certified climber only hinted about his strategy – to stun everyone with another remarkable ride in the decisive Stage Four over the Cordilleras in Benguet on Thursday.
“I will again try my best to become champion again,” said Ravina, a member of the continental team 7-Eleven Road Bike Philippines. “Me and my team have prepared hard for the Le Tour, and we hope to come out strong again.”
Ravina is teammates with two-time local Tour champion Mark Galedo.
Philippine Navy-Standard Insurance’s Santy Barnachea, also a two-time winner of the local Tour, promised to do the same.
“We are ready and we will try our best to fend off the foreigners,” said Barnachea.
The field is composed of 15 teams – 13 foreign and two local – with each team represented by five riders.
Nine of the foreign teams are UCI continental squads: Aisan Racing Team and Team Uyko of Japan, KSPO Cycling Team of Korea, PT Pegasus Cycling Team of Indonesia, Terengganu Cycling Team of Malaysia, CCN Cycling Team of Brunei, OCBC Cycling Team of Singapore, Polygon Sweet Nice of Ireland and Tabriz Shahrdari Ranking of Iran.
The rest are club teams: Atilla Cycling Club of Mongolia, Satalyst Giant Racing Team of Australia and Track Team Astana of Kazakhstan.
The United Arab Emirates sent its national squad.
PhilCycling chairman Alberto Lina will flag off the competitors at 8:30 a.m. on Monday for the 160-km Stage One, which is marked by tricky and demanding climbs starting in Dinalupihan in Bataan, through Balanga and Morong and inside the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority, before finishing in Olongapo City.
The pedaling under the scoring Easter Monday heat is expected to last close to six hours.