by Nick Giongco
LEGAZPI CITY – Dutch rider Jeroen Meijers enjoyed wearing the Purple Jersey that he never took it off his back even once in the five-leg Le Tour de Filipinas that ended Tuesday.
A symbol of the cycling pack leader, Meijers won his second crown after three years by being always in the thick of the battle as German racer Mario Vogt of Team Sapura-Malaysia took the fifth and final stage, a 138.1-kilometer trek around neighboring cities of Albay and nearby Sorsogon.
“I had a good feeling about (winning the overall) but you don’t celebrate early because anything can happen in a race,” said the 26-year-old Meijers, who stamped his class in the first stage in Tagaytay City last week.
Meijers, who races for Chinese squad Taiyuan Miogee, recalled that he had his first title in France in 2016 but the one he won here is going to be memorable.
“Every victory is special and this is the first time outside of Europe so I will remember it for a long time,” said Meijers, who logged 20 hours, 38 minutes and seven seconds the last five days when the tour made stops in some key cities of Southern Luzon and Bicolandia.
Singaporean Go Choon Huat of Terengganu Cycling-Malaysia came in second (20:38.52) and Angus Lyons Oliver’s Real Food-Australia finished third (20:39.45).
Eritrean rider Daniel Habtemichael,who rides for Philippine team 7Eleven Cliqq-Air21 was fourth (20:40.20) and Sandy Nur Hasan of PGN Road-Indonesia Sandy Nur Hasan PGN Road Cycling (Indonesia) was fifth (20:40.32).
No Filipino entry cracked the top 10 as Marcelo Felipe 7Eleven Cliqq-Air21 was a heartbreaker at 11th (20:40.43).
Vogt, who won the Pagbilao, Quezon to Daet, Camarines Norte second stage, submitted a time of three hours, 33 minutes and 39 seconds in bagging fifth stage honors.
Filipino Dominic Perez of 7Eleven Cliqq-Air21 bagged second (3:34.41) and Mohd Zamri Saleh of Terengganu-Malaysia was third (3:34.41).
Meijers, the newly-crowned champion, came in with a clocking of 3:34.48.