SORSOGON–The 8.25-kilometer stretch of asphalt road going up to the Bulusan Volcano National Park was a smooth and easy uphill climb.
It did not provide much of a challenge.
But this is where British rider Daniel Whitehouse of Team Terangganu of Malaysia proved himself as a strong climber,
The 22-year-old veteran from Manchester, England chased and wore down New Zealand rider Guy Kalma as he went on to win Stage 1 of the eighth edition of the Le Tour de Filipinas.
He was all alone when Whitehouse checked in after three hours, 56 minutes and 16 seconds.
Whitehouse’ determined push up the mountainous roads in and around Mt. Bulusan allowed him to claim the overall individual stage victory and the King of the Mountain plum afterwards.
Whitehouse was hardly minding the moderate rain that made him wet while on his way up. He was even loving it.
His clocking had him finishing some 1 minutes 51 seconds ahead of a nine-man chase groupm led by Attaque Team Gusto’s Benjamin Hill,
“I’m British. So, it's (rain) normal. In Manchester, it rains all the time. It’s not a bad thing,” said Whitehouse, after he cooled himself while being drenched by water from a fireman’s hose.
He kept a steady and strong pace in negotiating the road overlooking the blue-green waters of Dangkalan beach and never let go of the lead.
When Whitehouse finally overtook Kalma before they arrived at the national park’s gates, the New Zealand bet was already spent and began faltering as many other riders overtook him later.
The signages of the last 29 kilometers of the 164.49-kilometer race from the Legazpi Blvd. seawall up to the Sorsogon Capitol Bldg. may have confused him.
Finishing in second to 10th places with Hill were Japanese bet Suzuki Ryu of Bridgestone Anchor, Team Ukyo’s Salvador Guardiola, Kinan’s Jai Crawford and Thomas Lebas, Eiichi Hirai (Ukyo).
Team 7-Eleven’s Spanish Edgar Nieto and Ukyo Nathan Earle were also in the pack.
Mark Galedo, also with 7-Eleven, emerged as the best Filipino rider with his 13th-place finish, some 9:12 behind Whitehouse.
Galedo said he wanted to make a push at the front. But teammate Rustom Lim developed braking issues and a flat tire in the first 30m kilometers of the race.
“May chance pa bukas. Nagkaroon ng aberya. Hindi ito inaasahan,” said Galedo.