2016 Le Tour de Filipinas preview

The 7th Le Tour de Filipinas foregoes the significant climbs of previous years, meaning risk-taking and persistence will be required to break down the cohesion of sprinter-focused teams who will be race favourites.

LE TOUR DE FILIPINAS BACKGROUNDER
The end of February is approaching fast and already two races in the Middle East are in the rearview mirror with another currently underway. Oddly though, it feels like the UCI Asia Tour hasn t actually started yet.

Asian riders have remained largely absent from the Hors Categorie racing in Dubai, Qatar and Oman due primarily to the crowding-out effect of WorldTeams and at times those events seem to exist in a bubble all on their own; it s almost like they are part of the Asia Tour yet they want to belong elsewhere.

For its part, the UCI2.2 Le Tour de Filipinas balances its dual role of local developmental platform and international race well.

LTdF has a fascinating history that is certainly worth sharing. 61 years after it was first held as the Manila-Vigan , the race would go through more iterations and name changes than Prince. Even ex-UCI president Pat McQuaid had a stint as race director in the 1997 and 1998 editions, when the race (then known as the Marlboro Tour ) covered almost 2 500 kilometers over 16 stages.

The race first gained UCI accreditation in 1998, only to disappear for three years after Marlboro withdrew its sponsorship. Note the timeline below doesn t include the race in its Tour of Luzon , Coca-Cola Tour or Tour ng Pilipinas guises.

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WEATHER
From its inauguration in 2010 until 2014, Le Tour de Filipinas (LTdF) was scheduled in April, when daytime temperatures could approach or exceed 40 C. Mercifully, the event was moved to February last year. This is historically a low-rainfall month and temperatures should also be more agreeable to many riders who, let s not forget, may be traveling from the European winter.

DIFFICULTY
It s disappointing to see no climbs over 1,000 metres in elevation, such as the Baguio stage that has featured in previous years. No individual stage threatens to be decisive, though all present some promising aspects that could open up the race with the right wind conditions, a strong and co-operative breakaway might leverage the length and back-half profile of the 204km second stage to fracture the peloton and put time into sprinters.

It is also a certainty that Filipino riders will not miss any opportunity to flee the peloton at any opportunity during the circuit race in Legazpi city especially on the foothills of the Mayon Volcano.

TEAMS BREAKDOWN
Teams must have a minimum of four, and maximum of six, riders and four officials. US ProContinental squad Team Novo Nordisk returns with 2015 LTdF stage winner Scott Ambrose, while UCI Continental teams account for two-thirds of the start list. Local Continental team 7 Eleven SAVA RBP also makes an appearance.

Notably, it is only the second time in the race s (admittedly short) history that no Iranian riders will participate. All eyes will therefore be firmly fixed on last year s winner Thomas Lebas, riding for Japan s Bridgestone Anchor Cycling Team.

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(large version of the preliminary start list here)

LEADER S JERSEYS
Five jerseys will be awarded at the conclusion of each stage:

Leader of General Classification Yellow Leader of Points Classification Green Leader of Young Rider Individual Classification White Leader of King of the Mountains Classification Polka Dot

Stage Winner Purple

PRIZE MONEY
An overall prize purse of USD17 040 is on offer, split across the following categories

Overall winner (individual) = USD950 Overall team = USD550 Overall Points = USD280 Overall KOM = USD280 Stage winner = USD810 Best Young Rider (overall individual) = USD280

Best Filipino Rider = USD550

MEDIA OUTREACH
No complaints here about the 2016 Le Tour de Filipinas official website, which appears to be a reliable carryover from the previous year. Social media is covered by Twitter and Facebook.

Broadcast partners CNN Philippines and ABS-CBN will be televising the race locally and if any live stream gets discovered it will be linked here. Here s some footage from last year s race:

STAGES AND PROFILES

Stage 1 | Antipolo Lucena 149km
Thursday, 18 February 2016 (start 08:30 local / 00:30GMT)

Stage 2 | Lucena Dael 204.8km
Friday, 19 February 2016 (start 08:30 local / 00:30GMT)

Stage 3 | Daet Legazpi 185.8km
Saturday, 20 February 2016 (start 08:30 local / 00:30GMT)

Stage 4 | Legazpi City 160.2km
Sunday, 21 February 2016 (start 08:30 local / 00:30GMT)

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