Hot, humid conditions and 155.75 kilometers awaited the 77 starters of today’s predominantly flat first Tour de Filipinas stage from Sta. Ana in the northern Luzon province of Cagayan to its capital city Tuguegarao. Consistent with the style of racing on the UCI AsiaTour so far this year, the pace exploded immediately once the peloton broke out of the neutral zone.
In what must have been a dream start for the local organizer, Filipino cyclist Oscar Rendole (Mail and More) became the first rider from the Philippines to win a stage in a UCI-sanctioned professional road cycling race; but only after almost four hours of fractured and attacking racing, averaging a touch under 42km/h.
In the absence of a live feed, Cycling iQ tracked down OCBC Singapore Cycling Team rider, Nick Squillari – shortly after a very late lunch in the opulent-sounding ‘Ivory Hotel’ team HQ - for a synopsis.
Man, it was hot. In a lot of ways it was chalk and cheese to (Tour de) Langkawi. I haven’t done a race like it. In Australia, someone might go off the front, then everyone settles in and when the big teams want to pull the break back they do, and it’s time to boogie. This race was just breaks, breaks, breaks; stuff going everywhere. I honestly reckon that first hour and a half was like stage five of Langkawi, where it was just bananas for the first two hours. In Langkawi though, I was hanging on for grim death. My power was about the same, but this time I was able to instigate some moves.
There were a lot of early moves. I actually got myself into one that looked really good, but that wasn’t to be because the water motorcycle rocked up and everyone decided to sit up and take on water! I was in there with (OCBC teammate) Sea Keong (Loh) and Alex Malone (Plan B Racing), and other strong riders but it got pulled back. The big break went at about the 60km mark. By the 90km mark I thought ‘nup, I’m not sitting in on this’, so I got away with a group of around 9-10 riders and then another group about the same size bridged up to us. The break up the road was about 20-strong and we eventually caught them after around 140km of racing. As soon as we bridged, the winning break went. They put three minutes into us over the next 10-15 kilometers. There was a lot of mucking around in our bunch by that stage; I think that shows in the final results.
So far (Tour de Filipinas) does not look as well organized as Langkawi. The fact that our Directeur Sportif didn’t have a race radio in the car today* probably wasn’t the greatest situation… I was able to really get the ball rolling with the second break today, and I spent the better part of 50 kilometers without the team car knowing I was there; I was just surviving on water, when I could get it, from the neutral service. I had enough food on me really, but I was dying for some Coke! I was begging for the car to come up… we only had one car. [Cycling iQ: in larger races, two cars will be supplied to teams, with the "A" car typically driven by the Sports Director (with a mechanic, food and spares crammed into the back) and the "B" car driven by support staff, ferrying equipment back and forth and managing any general on-course tasks required.]
The food has been great, there’s wifi, there’s aircon… from what I’ve seen, everyone is in the same hotel; the hotels are super comfortable. Oh yeah, there was one race official that almost ran us off the road trying to take pictures…
Tomorrow, I expect it will be flat knackers [Note: Aussie slang for "very fast"] again. I’ll be able to give some things a go in the next two stages.
[*Cycling iQ: shortly after this was posted, Nick emailed to say there was in fact a race radio; "didn't have a race radio" just meant the information supplied was "very minimal".]
Tomorrow’s 109.43km second stage, from Tuguegarao City to Cauayan City, features almost 200 metres elevation gain but should still end in a bunch sprint. Look out for the evergreen Shinichi Fukushima from Malaysia’s Terengganu Cycling Team and also the in-form Kiwis from PureBlack Racing.
NOTE: A visit to the Swim Bike Run Philippines website is also worthwhile for another perspective on the race; a few SBR triathletes are in the Mail and More team, and they appear to be enjoying their first big road cycling stage race.
NOTE TWO: images from stages will be loaded when they are made available by Tour de Filipinas [ie: Cycling iQ isn't wealthy enough to commission photos]
STAGE 1 RESULTS AND GENERAL CLASSIFICATION AFTER STAGE 1
1. Chien Liang Chen (Action Cycling Team)
2. Joseph Cooper (PureBlack Racing)
1. Oscar Rendole (Mail and More) 10pts
2. Koos Kers (Dutch Global Cycling Team) 7pts
3. Timo Scholz (CCN Cycling Team) 5pts
1. Rudy Roque (American Vinyl LPGMA) 3:34:41
2. James Williamson (PureBlack Racing) 3:34:41
3. Azamat Turaev (Uzbekistan Suren Team) 3:34:59