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April 23-May 5, 1998
 Toughest race in Asia
1998 Tour ng Pilipinas 

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  Eight Mountain Sorties Await Tour ng Pilipinas Bidders

EIGHT mountain sorties, culminating in three difficult climbing stages in Baguio, provide the challenge for 90 foreign and local riders seeking the greatest honor and the biggest purse in one of Asia's major cycling events, now named the Marlboro Centennial Tour.

The slow, long climb to Tagaytay City, the hairpin curves of the `Tatlong Eme' in Quezon and the excruciating rides in the mountains of San Pablo, Mabitac and Antipolo provide this year's select riders the first big test of endurance in the 2,494-km., 16-stage Marlboro summer tour which begins in Cebu City April 15.

There are many more.

Off the town of Sta. Fe in Nueva Ecija, the cyclists attack the Caraballo Mountains through the serpentine, uphill drive on Dalton Pass, going to the mountain shrine dedicated to American and Filipino soldiers who stood shoulder to shoulder against Japanese incursions in World War II.

From Cabanatuan, the cyclists push their way over mountain roads off Dinalupihan before they swoop down on Subic. In this former American naval base, the cyclists take on an entirely different challenge, a race up and down a ribbon of paved roads cutting through the Subic jungles where only Aeta and wild animals still roam.

One lap covers 20 kilometers which they will negotiate four times in a test of endurance and skill in both uphill and downhill racing which Marlboro Tour competitors have encountered since the Antipolo-to-Antipolo stage of the annual classic in the late 80s.

After two stages across the broad, flat lands of Central and Northern Luzon, the cyclists face the supreme test - three consecutive days of moutain climbing the Cordilleras - which will determine this year's champion.

In the 12th stage, the riders blaze through 160 kilometers of highways and winding roads under the heat of El Ni¤o, then unleash whatever they can still muster in the last 35 kilometers for the steep climb to Baguio City through Naguilian Road.

The next day, the top contenders prepare for the pivotal 13th stage -- the eight-loop Baguio-to-Baguio killer lap -- a 200 km race down Marcos Highway, going up to Baguio via Naguilian Road, down again on Marcos Highway and ending up in the Pines City via Kennon Road.

As if that were not enough, those still in the running for the P500,000 champion's purse will take one last crack at glory in the 14th stage, a 27-kilometer individual time trial from the Twin Peaks to the Summer Capital.

Filipinos will be bracing for tougher competition in the team category since the RP team, all the eight regional teams and six foreign teams will now be clashing for only one team crown. Last year's Marlboro Tour provided separate competitions for regional teams on one hand and the RP team and foreign squads on the other.

But to give local teams a chance against their foreign counterparts, the organizers hava cancelled the team time trials, where regional teams have yet to show superiority.

 

 

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