LUCENA City – Heavy traffic and a scorching hot afternoon weather welcomed Korean rider Park Sanghong, Australian campaigner Jai Crawford and Daniel Whitehouse in the last stretches of Stage 4.
Park was first to reach the finish in the 4th and final stage of the Le Tour de Filipinas 2017 but Crawford won the overall title as the race drew to a close with a twist at the City Hall along Maharlika Highway in Bgy. Isabang here.
The 29-year-old Park crossed the finish line at the end of the LTDF’s longest route, a 207.35 km route from Daet City to Lucena City, in five hours and 13 seconds.
Chief organizer Donna May Lina, realizing that more volunteers were needed to keep order, personally helped direct traffic with uniformed policemen, and was in front of the finish line when Park and a four-man pack breezed past, some three seconds ahead of Crawford.
The 29-year-old Crawford, who is from Kinan Cycling Team, was only fifth during Stage 1. He wrested the individual general classification honors from Whitehouse, who held the yellow jersey for the last three days.
The firetruck that’s supposed to hose down and cool down riders arrived 15 minutes late, missing Park and the first wave of four riders which included Matt Boys of Kuwait Cartucho ES, Mario Vogt of Attaque TeamGusto and Damien Monier of Bridgestone Anchor.
“It was mission to finish in 1 and 2,” said Park in broken English. He won his second crown in two years. He took home the 2015 National Championship.
Crawford, who was shaking slightly after he did not get hosed down immediately after the race, found little challenge when he went up the steep climb routes of the “tatlong eme” route inside the Atimonan National Park.
But the last 25 kilometers of the race proved to be more challenging for him as other riders from a seven-man lead pack, that he joined from the start, began making pushes.
This seven-man bunch also had Spanish rider Edgar Nieto of 7-Eleven Roadbike Philippines with them. But he slowly faded away as fatigue got to him.
The group broke apart in the last two kilometers when he slowed from the pressure coming from Vogt, Boys, Park and Monier.
“I thought my chances were small because it was just me riding up front and the guys were following me,” said Crawford, who said that a good headwind pushed him to the back from the front with 500 meters left.
The win Crawford his third major crown. He claimed the Tour of Siam in 2007 and the overall championship in the Tour of Ijen last year.
Whitehouse, who was tightly watched all throughout, finished at 14th, and was behind by 2:28 in the stage. Overall, he settled for second, and trailed Crawford by 28 seconds.
The 22-year-old Whitehouse nevertheless was thankful for teammates Romli Cheku and Umardi Rosdi for their big effort, even if they turned up sick and dehydrated from the punishing weather condition.
Team 7-Eleven rider Mark Galedo was the best finishing Filipino rider after landing 16th in the stage, and placing 14th overall.
Whitehouse still took home the best young rider honors, while Park topped the points classification with 26, followed by Spanish bet Alfredo Grijalba and Benjamin Hill with 15 apiece.
It was Vogt who took the King of the Mountain honors, with Crawford in second. On the other hand, Team Ukyo topped the team general classification award while Crawford’s Team Kinan placed second ahead of Attaque Team Gusto.