by Nick Giongco
The 194.9-kilometer Pagbilao to Daet stage could very well decide the outcome the five-leg, UCI-sanctioned 2019 Le Tour de Filipinas which officially hits the road Friday in Tagaytay City.
Defending champion El Joshua Carino and 2014 titleholder Mark Galedo as well as national team coach Reinhard Gorrantes and top mentor Eusebio Quinones yesterday swore that the Pagbilao to Daet race is going to be crucial in the fight for individual and team honors.
“Matindi ang karera (the race is tough),” said Carino representing the national team, during the Philippine Sportswriters Association Forum yesterday at the Amelie Hotel in Ermita, Manila.
Carino admits that while he is familiar with the killer route, he will not risk going all-out.
“Nadaanan ko na yan at alam ko naman ang ruta pero hindi ka basta-basta aatake (I have been there and know the route but you just don’t attack it),” said Carino, who is aiming to become the first Filipino pedal-pusher to win back-to-back crowns in the tenth edition of the country’s premier road race.
Galedo, 34, who will race under the Celeste team, one of five local teams entered alongside ten foreign squads, believes that the entire race is not only long and extensive and requires almost-perfect planning.
“Hindi ka na lang basta aattake. Kalkulado ang bawat galaw. Kaunting mali, pwedeng maiwan ang team (You don’t just attack. You have to be calculated in every move. One small mistake will cost a lot)” he said, adding that he will bank on his vast experience in aiming for the title.
Gorrantes and Quinones agree that the initial stage alone – the Tagaytay route that will cover almost 130 kilometers – is a pivotal stage as riders deal with the mountainous terrain of the city before making a journey that will take them to Nasugbu, Lian, Balayan and Lemery.
Quinones has an ace up his sleeve being a native of Bicol as he intends to use his familiarity with the route to help his riders conquer the dreaded Pagbilao to Daet sector.
“The flat (road) is only in the last 17 km,” said Quinones.
Donna Lina, chairman of the race, made sure that all bases have been covered not just for the sake of the cyclists but of the general public.
“The safety of everyone is everything,” said Lina, who commended the cities that threw their support to the event.
Stage Three – from Daaet to Legaspi – covering 183.7 kilometers will hit the road on Sunday followed by a 176-km scorcher Stage Four that will flag off in Legaspi via Sorsogon and Gubat and back to the Albay capital on Monday.
Stage Five on Tuesday will be 138.20 km from Legaspi via Donsol and back to Legaspi.