Ten foreign teams composed of riders with vast experiences in countless Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) races, will be giving their Filipino counterparts a run for their money in the 2011 Le Tour de Filipinas, which kicks off on April 16.
Bert Lina, the former Philippine Cycling (PhilCycling) president and overall chairman of the Le Tour, said the homegrown talents will have to dig deep if they want to figure prominently in the race.
Le Tour de Filipinas is one of only two UCI-sanctioned races in Southeast Asia, the other being the Le Tour de Langkawi in Malaysia.
The local challenge will come from Smart, 7-Eleven, American Vinyl, Wow Videoke, Roadbike Philippines and Air21 teams.
They will be facing South Africa’s Team DCM, Giant Kenda of Malaysia, CNN Colosi of the Netherlands, Iran’s Suren Cycling, OCBC of Singapore, Bridgestone (Japan), Snow Leopard (Mongolia), Azad University (Iran), and Malaysia’s Terenganu Team and Le Tua Cycling.
But Lina, the Air21 chairman who is responsible for reviving the Philippine Tour in 2002, is confident about the Filipino cyclists’ chances.
“Our riders are highly motivated and will not be intimidated,’‘ said Lina during the event’s press conference. “Inviting these foreign teams will definitely elevate the level of competition, which will benefit our cyclists in the long run.”
David McCann, already 39, is coming back to defend his title. He is riding for Giant Kenda of Malaysia.
The 2011 Le Tour, which is being staged under the advocacy “Save the Seas,” is presented by Kia Motors with Smart, Air21 and the Lucio Tan Group of Companies led by Tanduay as partners. Other sponsors are Maynilad, Sign Media and Canondale-Mavic.
Also present during the press conference in a Manila hotel were Tagaytay City Mayor and PhilCycling president Abraham Tolentino and Paquito Rivas, whose Philippine National Cycling Association (PNCA) will manage the race.
Also with Lina and company were Kia (Columbian Auto Car Corp.) President Gina Domingo, Kia marketing services manager Paterno Soriano, Smart team manager Carlos Leviste, Tanduay regional marketing manager Marc Ngo, Maynilad advocacy group head Patricia Bermudes-Hizon, and IBC 13 chief Eric Canoy.
Gary Cayton, chairman of the organizing committee, said the first stage will be an 89.6-km circuit race on Roxas Boulevard.
The Tour entourage will then travel to Bataan on the same day by ferry from Manila Bay to Orani for Stage 2, which will be 157.6 kms Balanga to Iba (Zambales) on April 17.
From Iba, the race will go to Lingayen, Pangasinan, for the 156.2-km Stage 3, before the Tour ends with the dreaded 156.2-km climb to Baguio City via Kennon Road.
The Tour will run until April 19.
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