MANILA, Philippines -- Mark Galedo has the legs that could conquer even the most treacherous climbs but on Wednesday, he didn’t have the right focus and lost his chance at keeping the Le Tour de Filipinas crown on Philippine soil.
Thomas Lebas, a 29-year-old competing for the Japan-based Bridgestone Anchor Cycling Team, cunningly rode Stage Four that turned out to be the most decisive in the race, opting to shadow the dreaded Iranians who were out to satisfy themselves with the final stage honors.
The strategy worked and the Frenchman added the Le Tour de Filipinas to his collection of general classification triumphs after the Tour of Hokkadido in Japan in 2013 and the Tour de International de Setif in Algeria last year.
“I rode with the Iranians because they’re the strongest in the peloton today,” said Lebas, who trailed Eric Sheppared, the leader in the first three stages, by four seconds and Galedo, the stalwart from the 7-Eleven Road Bike Philippines squad, by only one second heading into the Baguio City stage.
“I just followed the Iranians. I attacked when I had the chance,” he added.
Lebas made the podium by finishing 42 seconds behind stage winner Mirsamad Pourseyedigolakhour of Tabriz Pereochemical. The No. 1 Asian rider prevailed in two hours and 54.01 seconds in the 101.70-km stage from Lingayen, Pangasinan, leading a 1-2 Iranian windup with Pishgaman Giant’s Hossein Askari (two seconds behind).
Galedo crossed more than two and a half minutes after Lebas for 12th in the stage, while Sheppard, who took a spill entering the final three kilometers, was 17th, more than three minutes behind.
Lebas logged a total time over 532.50 kms of 13:40:49, with Galedo settling for runner-up honors in the general classification with a 1:57 deficit. Another Frenchman, Damien Monier also of Bridgestone Anchor, was third 2:19 back.
Philippine National Team’s Jun Rey Navarra managed a ninth place finish, while Peter Pouly, also a Frenchman wearing Singha Infinite’s (Thailand) colors, was at the tailend of the magic 10.
“I stayed with the yellow jersey [Sheppard] and lost my focus on No. 22 [Lebas],” said Galedo. “I knew Lebas is also strong in the mountains but he got his chance by shadowing the Iranians.”
Galedo and Sheppard (Attaque Team Gusto) knew they had lost their chance at the crown when Lemas and the Iranians broke away in the final 10 kilometers of the climb that featured gradients as difficult as 30 percent. But Sheppard saw his hope diminish further when it took him precious seconds fixing his chain after that spill.
“Kennon [Road] was an easy one for the short climbers and those who prefer to have others do the pacing for them,” said Galedo, whose team 7-Eleven Road Bike Philippines—after leading for the first three stages—lost its shot at the team overall title by finishing only fourth behind Tabriz Petrochemical, Bridgestone Anchor and Pishgaman Giant. The Philippine National Team was fifth in the field of 15 squads.
Rounding out the top 10 in the individual general classification were Pourseyedigolakhour fourth, Oleg Zemiakov (Kazkhastan National Team) fifth, Hossein Askari Askari (Pishgaman Giant) sixth, Amir Kolahdogzhagh (Tabriz Petrochemecial) seventh, Ahad Kazemi Sarai (Tabriz Petrochemical) eighth, Emami ninth and Sheppard 10th.
Oleg Zemiakov emerged as the Best Young Rider, while Stage Two winner Scott Ambrose, the 20-year-old with a type 1 diabetes of the Team Novo Nordisk, was the points classification champion. Askari snatched the King of the Mountain Honors.
The climbers allowed a five-man group to break away in the first 10 kilometers in Calasiao town in Pangasinan, knowing well that the last 25 kilometers will decide the stage’s outcome.
A five-man breakaway group dictated the race’s complexion for almost 80 kilometers, leading by as much as eight and a half minutes, until they were slowly gobbled by the peloton of climbers on the descent to the Cordilleras.