An important part of stage racing had been missing prior to today’s third Tour de Filipinas stage; the peloton’s arrival into categorised mountains territory meant one rider would finally be able to mount the podium wearing the King of the Mountains polka-dot jersey. And then there was the one who got away.
That “one” was 23 year-old Azamat Turaev of Uzbekistan Suren Team. The plucky youngster was part of a five-man break which arrived at the first KOM (after 68km) with a generous time gap over the main bunch, whilst a trio of riders attempted to bridge. Action Cycling’s Chun Kai Feng bested Turaev and Shinichi Fukushima (Terengganu Cycling) over the 367m summit to claim the KOM jersey; thereby going into the final stage literally wearing red targets all over his back.
As the small break made its way up the second (381m) summit, the peloton began lifting the pace. With the gap closing quickly, it became mathematically evident to the leaders that they were in danger of being caught. With two kilometres remaning, Turaev leapt off the front to finish triumphantly with a 15 second gap back to second-placed Feng. The stupendously-aggressive Fukushima rounded out the podium.
For more on today’s race, Cycling iQ – or rather, the receptionist at the Highlander Hotel who seemed incapable of transferring the phone call – dragged OCBC’s Nick Squillari from his room to once again offer his view from within the race.
The last couple of days have taken it out of the peloton. There were less attacks going on; it hasn’t been nearly as furious as the first day. In saying that, today was a quicker stage (43kph) than yesterday (40kph). Unfortunately, we lost a rider (Haidar Anuawar); he came off and the gears on his bike were mangled, so he wasn’t able to continue. He’s not too badly injured, thank goodness. [Note: OCBC is now down to three riders, as are Colossi Miche].
I did a couple of things differently with my recovery yesterday – no massage, extensive icing of quads, hamstrings, calf muscles and more carbs in the 6hrs post race – so I felt 100% better today. The ‘no massage’ move was partly me being super-ticklish and not dealing well with them – hard to massage someone who is laughing, even in pain – and partly as I’m not as keen on the method used by the current masseur. I also had a gel in the neutral (zone), so by the time the first frantic 10km had been smacked out, where I’d sat back and not gotten involved, it had started to kick in and I was ready to boogie.
Today was about covering early attacks, so I was on domestique duties. Choon Huat (Goh) was in the break and I did my best to look after Sea Keong (Loh, 3rd on GC). I stayed with the bunch over the first climb, but the second one unhitched me. They weren’t easy rollers. After the descent off the first climb, I worked at the front with the Plan B Racing boys. Between OCBC, Plan B and the Dutch Global boys, we kept it at a much higher pace. Plan B rode tempo up the second climb, and then they started pegging the break back all the way until the finish.
The roads were the same as yesterday; that’s why Haidar came off. Luckily I was on the front, so I had a clear view of what was coming up. There were literally gaps in the road about 20cm wide, and they were deep. You had to ride them like cobbles and hit them with speed, because if you slowed down it would make the impact worse. Our wheels held up really well. [Note: at this stage, I asked Nick if he wanted to give his wheel supplier a plug]. The Reynolds 46 and 66 tubs have been outstanding. We haven’t had a single wheel issue and they have been absolutely pounded.
Tomorrow, I’ll do my absolute best to keep Sea Keong in a good position until the base of the first climb. I might not reach the top with him, but you never know. I find it takes me a day of climbing for my legs to kick in. Both climbs look vicious. I’m hoping my maths is wrong but, if it’s right, they’ll average 10% for 7 kilometres each; that’s not including the slope leading up to it. I’m sure it’ll be chaos from start to finish.
At the moment, the pick (for race winner) would have to be Al (Alex Malone, Plan B Racing); he’s riding fantastic. Also, James Williamson; he looks comfortable on the climbs and PureBlack are a well-drilled bunch, those boys. I think we (OCBC and Plan B Racing) have still got the same interest in getting our GC rider to the base of the first climb in a good position; from there we just slug it out. We might be able to fall in with some guys down on GC who want to make up some time, and that could help with some of the firepower we’re lacking.
[Cycling iQ: I mentioned Shinichi Fukushima's third place to Nick; does the irrepressibly-evergreen 40 year-old provide motivation to younger riders?] Nick: Fukushima is an inspiration, he’s showing no signs of slowing down. You look at his performance – and riders like Horner and O’Grady – and think, hey, I’ve still got the better part of a decade ahead of me. There’s a long way to go though. It would be great if this (cycling) takes me to Europe but if it doesn’t, I won’t die wondering.
Tomorrow’s 133.83km final stage, from Bayombong to Baguio City, traverses a route that has reportedly never been used in the history of professional road cycling events in the Philippines. Two of the three KOM climbs, at 75km and 125km respectively, exceed 1,500m in elevation and feature >15% pitches enroute to each summit. Due to the elevation, temperatures are forecast to be 10-15°C cooler than the previous three days of racing, with a slight chance of showers. With only a two minute spread across the top ten riders on general classification, a leaderboard shake-up appears imminent.
STAGE 3 RESULTS
GENERAL CLASSIFICATION AFTER STAGE 3
1. Ahmad Haidar Anuawar (OCBC Singapore Cycling Team) DNF
2. Irvan Firmansyah (Colossi Miche Racing Team) DNS
1. Arnel Quirimit (GO21) 14pts
2. Azamat Turaev (Uzbekistan Suren Team) 12pts
3. Hamid Shirisisan (Uzbekistan Suren Team) 12pts
KING OF THE MOUNTAINS CLASSIFICATION
1. Chun Kai Feng (Action Cycling Team) 3pts
2. Azamat Turaev (Uzbekistan Suren Team) 2pts
3. Shinichi Fukushima (Terengganu Cycling Team) 1pt
1. Azamat Turaev (Uzbekistan Suren Team) 8:43:54
2. Rudy Roque (American Vinyl LPGMA) 8:44:07
3. James Williamson (PureBlack Racing) 8:44:07
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2. American Vinyl LPGMA