By Jerome Lagunzad
For the first time in Philippine Tour history, the country’s busiest major highway, Epifanio de los Santos Avenue or commonly known as EDSA, will play a major role as the Le Tour de Filipinas hits the road with its ninth edition tomorrow.
All 17 teams, composed of 85 cyclists, will be flagged off from the Liwasang Aurora inside the Quezon Memorial Circle in Quezon City then will pedal through the Elliptical Road and through Quezon Avenue before negotiating Edsa toward Monumento in Caloocan City for the race’s neutral zone that covers 9.5 kilometers.
Out to provide assistance on the race entourage is the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority, headed by Chairman Danilo D. Lim, whose men in blue vowed to control traffic flow without disturbing movement of vehicles.
The 157.50-km Stage 1 to Palayan City of the annual cycling race co-presented by Air21, Cignal and Cargohaus Inc. and organized by Ube Media Inc. will start exactly at 8 a.m. The race column is expected to complete the Edsa neutral ride under 30 minutes.
“Edsa is historic in many ways, but with the traffic conditions on the highway, especially at rush hour – and the concerns over clean air – it would be a milestone for the Le Tour de Filipinas to expand its advocacy on the major thoroughfare,” said Alberto Lina, PhilCycling chairman and the acknowledged godfather of Philippine cycling.
The first of four stages of the International Cycling Union race will also run through the McArthur Highway, where the major artery that connects Metro Manila to Central and Northern Luzon before the expressways, particularly the North Luzon Expressway, were built.
Once in Palayan City, the entourage will be warmly welcomed by the Nueva Ecija capital’s hospitality under Mayor Adrianne Mae Cuevas.
Adding interest to the Le Tour de Filipinas are the non-bicycle and non-cyclist components of the event.
The entire race entourage consists of 416 personnel – from the cyclists down to the ground crew which takes care of the barriers and gantries – and 129 vehicles (44 motorcycles with a minimum of 400cc displacement, 36 cars/sedans, 39 SUVs/vans, nine trucks and one bus).
On Monday, the Stage 2 will bring the protagonists from Cabanatuan City to Bayombong, Nueva Vizcaya, covering 157.90 kms with a climb over the dreaded Dalton Pass.
The following day, the remaining hopefuls will tackle Stage 3, the longest at 185.20 kms from Bambang, Nueva Vizcaya, to Lingayen, Pangasinan, before they wind up their title hunt in the Stage 4 on Wednesday, a 154.65-km trek from Lingayen to Baguio City via Kennon Road.