Stepping up a gear in the Philippines

Tour of Camsur aims at UCI status

It may come as a surprise to many to hear that the Philippines are something of a cycling hotbed, especially when it comes to stage racing. Just a few days ago the inaugural Tour of Camsur drew to a close with a 40-km criterium around the world-leading Camsur Watersports Complex, which lies a 7-hour drive south of the capital city of Manila.

Covering some 1000km during its 9 stages from Manila through the mountainous Bicol region to CWC, the Tour of Camsur made for tough racing, especially when you throw in the intense heat and a sharp licking from a passing typhoon. But it’s not just the climate and geographical conditions that contribute to the tough racing in the country, as the riders themselves are renowned throughout the region for their aggressive racing and constant attacking. Although to passing foreign teams their racing style may seem a little insane at times, it does produce results, and has served to raise the overall standard of the Filipino riders, who are amongst the strongest road riders in the Southeast Asian region.

The 2011 Tour of Camsur followed on from the 2010 Tour of Luzon, which last year was a hard-fought battle between the US Kelly Benefit Strategies team and the South African EMG squad, although the aggressive racing style of the local riders earned them the lion’s share of stage wins in Luzon, a portion which they also took this time around.

The early stages of the race were dominated by the local 7-Eleven team, which has in recent years been something of a flagship for the country’s racing scene. The squad regularly competes in UCI Asia Tour races and is often considered the “unofficial” Filipino national team.

The overall GC title went to Bicol native Irish Valenzuela of the 7-Eleven team, after he took a commanding win on stage 4 of the tour. The team rides in a strip almost identical to that worn by the pioneering American 7-Eleven team 25 years ago, and they are hoping to one day follow in their footsteps.

Next year the 7-Eleven team plans to step up to Continental status, and has verbal signing agreements with two foreign-based half-Filipino riders who are competing successfully at Continental level in Europe already. If things come together, they will become the first ever Filipino Continental team, and there’s no doubting that the overall standard of their home-grown talent is easily worthy of at least that status.

Another team to enjoy success at the Tour of Camsur was the Eddy Holland’s Bicycle Services squad from Western Australia. The team was comprised of a blend of experienced internationals and younger WA riders, and they took away four stage wins, including the opening team time trial.

The Tour of Camsur organisers are one of a few private outfits striving hard to drag the country’s racing scene to a higher level, and hope to earn UCI ranking status within a couple of years. If they succeed, the Tour of Camsur would become only the second race in the country to hold that status; the other event being the UCI Asia ranked Tour de Filipinas, which is organised by the “designated” national cycling federation.

Tour of Camsur results:

Stage 1 - TTT – Eddy Holland’s Bicycle Services
Stage 2 – Alfredo Asuncion – Mile Age
Stage 3 – Sherwin Diamsay - Schick
Stage 4 - Irish Valenzuela – 7-Eleven
Stage 5 - Dylan Spiby – Eddy Holland’s Bicycle Services
Stage 6 – Sherwin Carerra – 7-Eleven
Stage 7 – Sergey Kudentov – Eddy Holland’s Bicycle Services
Stage 8 – Sergey Kudentov – Eddy Holland’s Bicycle Services
Stage 9 – Alfredo Asuncion – Mile Age

Final general classification:

1. Irish Valenzuela (7-Eleven)
2. Baler Ravina (Pangasinan)
3. Lloyd Reyante (7-Eleven)

U23 – Dylan Spiby (Eddy Holland’s Bicycle Services)
KOM – Lloyd Reyante (7-Eleven)
Points – Ericson Obosa (7-Eleven)
Team – 7-Eleven

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