by Nick Giongco
TAGAYTAY CITY – For Dutch rider Jeroen Meijers, it pays to go the extra mile in training for a big race such as the Le Tour De Filipinas 2019 that officially hit the road Friday with the 129.5-kilometer stage.
For defending champion El Joshua Cariño, who wound up among the last finishers, this year’s Le Tour, will be something he wished didn’t happen in his career.
Racing under Taiyuan Miogee of Shanxi, China, the 26-year-old from the city of Tilburg, clocked three hours, six minutes and 59 seconds to rule the initial stage of the five-lap, 822.2-km journey around Southern Luzon and Bicol.
The race, which flagged off at the Praying Hands Monument at exactly 8 a.m., was largely uneventful until 83.8-km mark when Meijers and mostly fellow foreign bets made their move going into the KOM phase, 14 kilometers from the finish.
“I didn’t rush in the sprints because I rode this twice while getting ready (for the first stage). I knew about the climb and I made my move in the last stage of the steep climb,” said Meijers, who raced for Roomport in his home country before signing up with Taiyuan Miogee, a new club in China.
Meijers said they were a bunch numbering 24 riders when he decided to bolt out of the lead group.
Meijers was followed by Angus Lyons of Oliver’s Real Food Racing of Australia (3:03.38) and 7Eleven Cliqq-Air21’s Daniel Habtemichael of Eritrea (3:09.06) and they were followed by Sandy Hasan of PGB Road-Indonesia (3:09.14) teammate Aiman Cahyadi (3:09.21), Kohei Yokotsuka of Team Ukyo-Japan (3:09.21) and teammate Naoya Yoshioka (3:09.23) Ali Redha Misbah of Team Supra-Malaysia (3:09.25), Lu Shuhai of Taiyuan Miogee (3:09.25).
7Eleven Cliqq-Air21’s Felipe Marcelo was the lone Filipino entry that crashed the top 10 with the same clocking of 3:09.25.
Carino of the Philippine national team was a dismal 68th with 3:35.36 while teammate Ronald Oranza was 71st (3:45.18).
Four did not finish.
Carino’s lackluster showing booted him out of the race alongside Oranza, who revealed that he wasn’t in great shape for the event.
Carino reasoned out that he could not focus in the final days going into the event owing to his hectic schedule.