LEGAZPI CITY, ALBAY — Australian Samuel Hill of Team Nero Bianchi outlasted a pair of Filipino challengers in the final stretch to claim his first-ever lap victory in Stage Three even as Dutch Jeroen Meijers of Taiyuan Miogee Cycling Team of China clung to the Air21 purple jersey in the 10th Le Tour de Filipinas on Sunday.
Hill, 23, was with the small five-rider group that broke loose as early as the first three kilometers of this 183.7-kilometer stage and then made his move against local bets Dominic Perez of 7Eleven Cliqq-Air21 by Roadbike Philippines and Mark Galedo of Celeste Cycles-Bianchi Phls in the final 10km downhill path to claim his very first stage win.
The Newcastle native clocked four hours, 33 minutes and 12 seconds while Perez and Galedo, the 2014 winner here, timed in 4:34:03 and 4:34:06, respectively, in this stage that started in Daet, Camarines Norte, and ended at the Rizal Avenue here.
It was a big turnaround from the disastrous Stage Two when Hill slipped from the lead pack after puncturing a tire.
“Yesterday (Saturday) was just a bad day and I was so sad of what happened, so this is the best feeling ever and I feel so stoked about it,” said Hill.
The podium finish for Perez and Galedo, however, gave the Filipinos, who are seeking to gain Olympic qualifying points to the 2020 Tokyo Games, something to cheer about as they were the first two local bets to crash into the top three.
And the 33-year-old Galedo, who climbed to 14th overall, hopes it will not be the last.
“There are still two stages to go so there is still a big chance for us to keep improving,” said Galedo in Filipino.
A day after losing and regaining the general classification lead in Stage Two, Meijers made sure his closest pursuer, Singaporean Goh Choon Huat of Terengganu Inc. TSG Cycling Team of Malaysia, will not be out of sight and stuck with him the whole time and finished in the peloton that clocked 4:35:06.
After three stages, Meijers kept his grip of the general classification lead with an aggregate time of 12:34:06, or 45 seconds ahead of Goh, who was stuck at second with 12:34:51 in this five-stage race sponsored by Air21, Cargohaus, NMM, Ufreight, SPL and marked by the full cooperation of the PNP, AFP and Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office.
And Meijers is expected to employ the same plan in today’s 176-km Stage Four that will start and end in Legazpi City but will pass Sorsogon towns like Casiguran and Gubat.
Aussie Angus Lyons of Oliver’s Real Food Racing of Australia ended up at fourth in the stage in 4:35:01 and stayed at No. 3 overall in 12:35:44.
The Philippines’ Marcelo Felipe of 7Eleven reclaimed his spot at No. 10 from No. 11 after Stage Two with a total time of 12:36:42, a few rungs ahead of Galedo, who was at No. 14 in 12:39:16.
7Eleven’s Daniel Habtemichael (12:36:19), PGN Road Cycling Team’s Sandy Nur Hasan (12:36:31) and Aiman Cahyadi (12:36:38), Team Ukyo’s Kohei Yokotsuka (12:36:38) and Naoya Yoshioka (12:36:40) and Team Sapura Cycling’s Muhsin Al Redha Misbah (12:36:41) rounded up the top 10.