MANILA, Philippines – Australia's Sean Whitfield let his young legs to the heavy work when it mattered most to win by a wheel in Stage 2 of the Le Tour de Filipinas on Sunday in Albay and Camarines Sur.
Whitfield booked his first stage victory in an International Cycling Union (UCI) race in the 177.35-km stage of the event, clocking in at four hours, 19 minutes, and 21 seconds – the same time registered by 25 other riders, including general classification leader Daniel Whitehouse of Great Britain.
LX Cycling Team's Sanghong Park of Korea finished second in the stage, followed by Spain's Fernando Grualba (Kuwait Cartucho.Es) at third.
Just a year younger than Whitehouse at 21, Whitfield positioned himself well at the tip of the bunch as it passed the red kite that denotes the final kilometer, thus giving Australian club Oliver's Real Food Racing its first victory since making its Le Tour de Filipinas debut last year.
"Sprinting is a little bit my specialty," said Whitfield, who also flashed potential climbing skills during the stretch that saw the cyclists navigate the hills connecting Albay and Camarines Sur.
"My teammates and I made our attack in the final 10-km, but entering the final 300 meters, I went for the win and held on," he explained.
Stage 2 marked the first time in several decades that a Philippine cycling race passed through the seaside roads from Tiwi in Albay to Camarines Norte's first municipality coming from the south, Sagnay.
"We raced here already, but that was a long time ago," said Le Tour de Filipinas race manager, Paquito Rivas, the 1997 Tour champion. "But it was different then; the roads were not paved. But they still posed the same challenge."
Like Stage 1, Sunday's race that started from the Sorsogon Bay Walk in Rompeolas offered another technical challenge for the 69 cyclists.
The first 100-km were on the flat roads of the towns of Castilla and Daraga and the cities of Legazpi and Tabaco.
Kinan Cycling Team's Jai Crawford of Australia initiated a three-man breakaway and took the solo lead for more than 80 kilometers. He was the first in the King of the Mountain, but proved to be a poor rider in the descent and was swallowed by the rampaging peloton in the final 30 kilometers.
That's where teamwork and sprinting came to play for the leaders.
Whitehouse ensured that he will retain the yellow jersey for Monday's 177.35-km Stage 3 to Daet, Camarines Norte as he embedded himself with the lead bunch to cross the finish line with the same time as Whitfield.
Whitehouse maintained his lead of 1:57 in the general classification over compatriot Benjamin Hill of Ataque Team Gusto, and a 1:58 lead over Japan's Ryu Suzuki of Bridgestone in the top 10 halfway through the race supported by Petron and UPS.
Stage 2 saw a mild change in the composition of the top 10 in the general classification, with Grualba (Spain, Kuwait Cartucho.Es) jumping from ninth to fourth (2:00 behind); Jai Crawford (Australia, Kinan) staying at fifth (2:00); Eiichi Hirai (Japan, Ukyo) improving from seventh to sixth (2:04); Nathan Earle (Australia, Ukyo) rising from 10th to seventh (2:04); Salvador Guardiola (Spain, Ukyo) dropping from fourth to eighth (2:04); 2015 champion Thomas Lebas (France, Kinan) being relegated from sixth to ninth (2:04); and Edgar Nohales Nieto (Spain, 7 Eleven Roadbike Philippines) from eighth to 10th (2:04).
The Filipino riders fared poorly in Day 2. Mark Galedo, the winner in 2014, crossed the finish in Stage 2 at 33rd place, 2:13 after Whitfield, to drop two spots down to the 15th position with an 11:38 deficit to the leader.
Ruston Lim (7 Eleven Roadbike) was two ranks further at 17th in the general classification, while his teammate, Arjay Peralta was at 22nd spot. The Philippine National Team members could not get their rhythm and were further down—Mervin Corpuz (38), George Oconer (39), Boots Ryan Cayubit (48), Jerry Aquino Jr. (62nd) and John Renee Mier (66th).
Mark Julius Bonzo, riding for Laos-based team CCN, was in 63rd place.
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