By Danny O. Calleja
LEGAZPI CITY, 17Jan2016 – Over a month ahead of this year’s staging of the Le Tour de Filipinas, whose final stage will be hosted by this premier Bicol metropolis recognized by the world tourism industry as the City of Fun and Adventure, the local government on Friday started its preparations purposely to add more delight to the international sport event.
Referring to the preparations, Mayor Noel Rosal said “we would make it sure that all delegates — the competing cyclists and their respective teams, race officials, sports followers and other visitors for the event coming from all over the world—enjoy their coming to and stray in the city.”
Le Tour de Filipinas — the only Philippine cycling tournament duly sanctioned by the Union Cycliste Internationale, Philippine Cycling Federation and Asian Cycling Federation — is a yearly professional road bicycle race first staged in Luzon in 1955.
Before carrying its current name, its previous names included the Tour of Luzon, Marlboro Tour and Tour ng Pilipinas.
Now on its 7th Edition, which will run on Feb. 18-21, the race will be composed of four stages to travel a total of 691 kilometers starting from Antipolo City and ending the first stage with a distance of 153 kilometers of mountainous road terrain in Lucena City, passing through the towns of Baras, Pililla, Siniloan, Pangil, Lumban, Pagsanjan and Lucban.
About a hundred professional cyclists composing the 15 competing teams—12 of them from abroad—will respond to the starting gun in Antipolo City, according to Rosal who attended the race’s press launch in Manila last Monday.
This will be the first time that the race will head to Bicol in seven years and, Rosal said, bikers’ teams from the United States, Germany, France, South Korea, United Arab Emirates, Japan, Netherlands, Belarus, Taiwan, Laos and Luxembourg will be seeing action in the category 2.2 race.
The Philippines’ teams joining the tournament are the 7-Eleven Road Bike Philippines, Kopiko Cebu Team and the Philippine National Squad.
All eyes in the race will be focused on Frenchman Thomas Lebas, last year’s individual category winner, who will be paraded anew by Japan’s Bridgestone Anchor Cycling Team, Rosal said.
The second stage on Feb. 19 will be from Lucena City via the Maharlika Highway through the famous “3M” zigzag climb in Atimonan, Quezon to the historic town of Daet, Camarines Norte’s provincial capital from where the third stage of 187 kilometers to this city will take off on the next day.
The fourth and final stage will be a double out-and-back course of 147 kilometers from the city and around the majestic Mt. Mayon, passing through the two other Albay cities of Tabaco and Ligao and the towns of Daraga, Camalig, Guinobatan, Malilipot and Sto. Domingo.
Parts of the city’s preparations, Rosal said, are the setting of road security, traffic management and crowd control measures in coordination with the local police and other local government units; and hotel room reservations, night tours around the city’s tourism sites and welcome and see off activities for the visitors, among other things needed to make their coming more memorable.
“I saw during the press launch the excitement among the cyclists, race crews and officials over the race’s coming to Legazpi for Mt. Mayon. However, we are going to show them that the city now is not only for the breathtaking view of the volcano’s magically-configured perfect cone but also for its sparkling metropolis loaded with heavy tourism-related activities, mouth-watering cuisine and exciting places to relax, play and enjoy a healthful living,” he said.
They will also find out that the city, which is home to warm and hospitable people, is already a world-class metropolis that caters to an influx of investments and massive urban development that continuously attract travelers, Rosal said.
The city’s air and coastal waters are certified “clean” by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources while the local police consider the peace, order and security prevailing over its communities as stable and manageable, he noted.
The city is also recognized now as a “convention capital” owing to its attractiveness as venue of sport competitions and big formal gatherings such as international conventions, conferences, meetings and reunions.
Last year, the city hosted over 50 grand national and international occasions, among them the 1st International Convention on Children and Family and the National Information and Communication Technology Summit, both in October, and the Nov. 14-15 Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA)–Adventure and Travel Conference.
These big gatherings brought in hundreds of thousands of visitors from all over the world as the city works on becoming one of the convention capitals of the country as part of its massive tourism industry development program.
All these involve tourism that is indeed taking a crucial role in the city in its pursuit for inclusive and horizontal growth that benefit not only big investors such as hotel operators but also the people in the countryside, where most of its tourist destinations are located, by providing more opportunities for employment and business ventures, Rosal said.
And since tourism growth, owing to its irresistible tourism products ranging from its natural wonders to world-class facilities, enlivens trade and commerce, the mayor said, the local business climate has also been made pleasant as investment opportunities have been going broader and more fortified.
Listed as number 14 in the country’s most visited tourism destinations in the country since two years ago, the city officially identified as one of the three most livable cities of the country is also vying for a slot in the five top tourist favorites at least for the Luzon area this year.
Antonio Reyes, the City Tourism Office chief, said the coming of Le Tour de Filipinas that is expected to bring in hundreds of visitors will be an addition to the count of arrivals in the city for this year.
Last year, he said, the city received tremendous number of arrivals which, when the official count is completed with local hotels submitting their lists, could reach one million, a remarkable growth from the over 700,000 in 2014.
The 7th Le Tour de Filipinas is supported not only by the city government but by 7-Eleven, Smart Communications, Isuzu Philippines, Petron, Novo Nordisk, Phenom Athletic Apparel and Kopiko, among others. (PNA)