Kuala Terrengganu, Malaysia—Asia’s biggest cycling spectacle in terms of international participation blasts off on Saturday with 131 riders from 22 world-class teams answering the starting gun of the PETRONAS Le Tour de Langkawi 2023.
The list includies the 7-11-Cliqq-Air 21 continental team from the Philippines seeking a podium finish in the Asian classification of the international bikefest.
The 7-11-Cliqq-Air21 squad was represented in last year’s edition by the Philippine national team that finished 8th overall and 6th among Asian teams, placing even better than the national squads from Southeast Asia—Thailand and Malaysia.
Nichol Pareja provided the bright spot for the Filipino squad when he ranked 13th in Stage 7 to emerge as the best Asian finisher in the lap.
Pareja returns to Malaysia with teammates Ismael Gorospe, Junreck Carcueva, Rench Michael Bondoc, Joshua Pascual, team captain Ryan Tugawin, and reserve Marco Lumanog. They are accompanied by team director Ric Rodriguez, assistant team director Roland Zamora, and staff members Oliver Nebres and Dan Sembrano, Jr.
Team owner Bong Sual, said the team’s goal is to crowd Asian continental teams from China, Japan, Iran, and South Korea in the fight for top honors and go for a podium finish.
“Goal natin lumaban sa Asian classification. Malalakas talaga kalaban pero lalaban na rin lang tayo, taasan na natin goals natin,” said Sual, who is in Manila, in message to Manila Standard Sports.
Rodriguez confirmed Sual’s goal, saying: “Our modest target is in the Asian category both in the individual and team. Anything that comes after that is already a bonus for us.”
The 7-11-Cliqq-Air 21 squad also has to contend with seasoned teams from Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia.
The team recently joined two races in China, the Tour of Po Yang Lake, which is a UCI 2.2 race, and the Poyang Lake International in September.
“We are coming off two high-level competitions and this is by far the most prepared team we have for Langkawi,” added Rodriguez.
“Back in the Philippines this time of the year, it is almost raining everyday plus bagyo at kung ano-ano pa so ‘di tayo makapag-ensayo ng mabuti kaya we decided to bring the team to these two races in China. Dapat tatlo sana ‘yan kaso na-cancel ‘yung isa, the Tour of Pingtan UCI 1.2 dahil sa bagyo.”
The first of eight stages of the Petronas LTdL will be a 187.4-km race from Kerteh to Kuala Terrenganu, a waterfront heritage city about 440 kilometers northeast of Malaysia’s capital, Kuala Lumpur.
Themed ‘Beat The Heat’, PETRONAS Le Tour de Langkawi 2023 is organized by the Ministry of Youth and Sports through the National Sports Council, in collaboration with the Malaysian National Cycling Federation.
The 1,278.1km 8-stage race traverses through 11 states in the Peninsular Malaysia, featuring two WorldTeam outfits – Astana Qazaqstan and EF Education-EasyPost. The race ends in front of the PETRONAS Twin Towers on Sept. 30.