Sprinters on the hunt for the blue jersey

Andrea Guardini

Andrea Guardini

BUKIT JALIL – Italy’s sprinter ace Andrea Guardini of Astana aims at becoming the first rider to win the points classification at Le Tour de Langkawi three times, a performance he was close to achieving already in his third participation last year but illness weakened him in the last two days in Terengganu and his compatriot Francesco Chicchi took the blue jersey off him at the eleventh hour as he claimed the final bunch sprint victory.

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Only two other riders have won the points classification on two occasions: Canada’s Gordon Fraser (in 2000 and 2004) and Australian LTdL legend Graeme Brown (in 2003 and 2005). “This is a very difficult competition”, the Le Tour de Langkawi chief operating officer Emir Abdul Jalal explained. “While climbers can target their stages and take it easy in the peloton some days, the points classification requires consistency. Every day, there are points up for grabs, three times a day at intermediate sprints and once on the finishing line.”

The identity of Le Tour de Langkawi makes its points competition a real sprinters’ affair, at the difference of other stage races like the Tour of Spain where it’s sometimes won by a climber. In eighteen years of history of the race, only two non-sprinters have won it: Italian attacker and domestique “Niki” Loda riding for MG-Technogym at the service of Luca Scinto in 1997 and “silver fox” Graeme Miller from New Zealand whose never-give-up attitude earned him the jersey in 1999 at the age of 39. Eventual world champion in 2006 and 2007 Paolo Bettini who won the competition in 2001 was also not a pure sprinter but he had won two bunch sprints, one of them on the penultimate day after the Genting Highlands stage where most of the sprinters, including green jersey wearer Jans Koerts from Mercury, got eliminated for finishing beyond the time cut.

In 2010, the points jersey turned blue and was the only one won by an Asian rider up to date.

That was the pinnacle of Anuar Manan’s career when the Terengganu sprinter ace then riding for Korean team Geumsan Ginseng also became the first Malaysian to win a stage at Le Tour de Langkawi in Port-Dickson. This year, Anuar is reunited with Malaysia’s other fast man Harrif Salleh under the banner of Terengganu but they will face a fierce competition from returning stars Guardini and Chicchi, and moreover Theo Bos who will be backed by a fantastic train formed of Brown, Rick Flens, Dennis van Winden and individual pursuit world record holder Jack Bobridge at Belkin.

Bos, Guardini and Chicchi were all stage winners last year, while Aidis Kruopis (Orica-GreenEdge), Michal Kolar (Tinkoff-Saxo), Kenny van Hummel (Androni-Venezuela), Leonardo Duque (Team Colombia), Yannick Martinez (Europcar), Rico Rogers (OCBC Singapore), Daniel Klemme (Synergy Baku) and Park Sung Baek (KSPO) will be on the hunt for their first success at LTdL at the difference of German veteran Robert Förster (Unitedhealthcare) who imposed himself in Jasin three years ago.

“This looks like the most interesting sprinters’ field we’ve ever had at Le Tour de Langkawi”, Emir noted. “There will be some great action on the flat finishes.”

Previous winners of the points classification at Le Tour de Langkawi:

1996: Jay Sweet (AUS)

1997: Nicola Loda (ITA)

1998: Fred Rodriguez (USA)

1999: Graeme Miller (N.-Z.)

2000: Gordon Fraser (CAN)

2001: Paolo Bettini (ITA)

2002: Robert Hunter (RSA)

2003: Graeme Brown (AUS)

2004: Gordon Fraser (CAN)

2005: Graeme Brown (AUS)

2006: Steffen Radochla (GER)

2007: Alberto Loddo (ITA)

2008: Aurélien Clerc (SUI)

2009: Mattia Gavazzi (ITA)

2010: Anuar Manan (MAL)

2011: Andrea Guardini (ITA)

2012: Andrea Guardini (ITA)

2013: Francesco Chicchi (ITA)

Organised by the Ministry of Youth and Sports, via the National Sports Council (NSC) in association with the Malaysian National Cycling Federation (MNCF). The 19th edition of Le Tour de Langkawi (LTdL) from February 27 to March 8, 2014 is set to cover a total distance of 1,495.9km over 10 stages, the UCI 2.HC (hors category) race featuring again as one of the biggest events on the UCI Asia Tour calendar.

(Source: LTdL)

22 TEAMS SET TO PARTICIPATE IN 2013 LE TOUR DE LANGKAWI

Five Pro Teams among a total of twenty-two will participate to the 18th edition of Le Tour de Langkawi, set to take place from February 21 to March 2nd, 2013.

“Our event didn’t reach that number of teams representing the World Tour since 2007”, noted the chief operating officer Emir Abdul Jalal. “Added to the quality of Pro Continental teams like Europcar coming with Pierre Rolland, we clearly have the best start list of the past decade. Now it’s up to the cyclists to deliver the show and to the riders of lower leveled teams to challenge the stars of the Pro Teams.”

New comers to LTdL will be the former Rabobank team renamed Blanco, Omega Pharma-Quick Step and Orica-GreenEdge while Garmin-Sharp and Astana will return for the second year in a row. “Their second enrolment back to back is meaningful to us”, said Emir Abdul Jalal. “It clearly shows that they’ve appreciated the quality of our organization. They have reiterated their long-term commitment to LTdL.”

Astana’s links with the race goes as far back as in 1997 when Alexandre Vinokourov took part as a member of the Kazakh national team and got noticed in Malaysia by European scouts. He came back on the final year of his career and prepared on Malaysian soil his campaign to the road race Olympic title that crowned his career in London in July last year.

Le Tour de Langkawi was the first appearance at the HC level of Slipstream Sport when they joined the Pro Continental ranks in 2007. They have only missed one edition since. Now called Garmin-Sharp, the American-registered outfit is one of the most prestigious in the world. In 2012, they have won their first Grand Tour with Ryder Hesjedal – a former mountain biker who initiated his road career with the 2002 Le Tour de Langkawi – at the Giro d’Italia.

The positive comments made by the representatives of Astana and Gamin-Sharp about the 2012 Le Tour de Langkawi have impacted the whole world of professional cycling. “While in the past it was up to us to contact the teams, some of them have questioned us about their possible participation to our race this year”, revealed Emir Abdul Jalal. “We’re sorry for the bidding teams of different categories and origins we couldn’t accommodate this time around

but we’re delighted with the field we’ll be able to present to Malaysian fans.”

The LTdL 2013, which carries the slogan “The Heat is On”, will officially begin in Kangar on February 21 and the race comprises 10 stages, covering 1469.7 kilometres.

The race is sanctioned by the International Cycling Union (UCI) as a 2.HC (hors category) race on the UCI Asia Tour calendar, organised by the Ministry of Youth and Sports, via the National Sports Council (NSC) in association with the Malaysian National Cycling Federation (MNCF).

The 18th edition of the race is marked not only by its return to its legendary birthplace, but also a challenging route which features two tough climbs up Cameron Highlands and Genting Highlands.

The participating teams

Image

1

Pro Tour

Garmin Sharp (GRS) – USA

2

Astana Pro Team (AST) – KAZ

3

Orica GreenEdge (OGE) – AUS

4

Blanco Pro Cycling Team (BLA) – NED

5

Omega Pharma – Quick-Step Cycling Team (OPQ) – BEL

6

Pro
Continental

Vini Fantini (VIN) – GBR

7

Unitedhealthcare Pro Cycling Team (UHC) – USA

8

Champion System Pro Cycling Team (CSS) – CHN

9

Team Europcar (EUC) – FRA

10

Androni Giocattoli – Venezuela (AND) – ITA

11

MTN – Qhubeka (MTN) – RSA

12

Continental

Tabriz Petrochemical Team (TPT) – IRI

13

RTS Racing Team (RTS) – TPE

14

Terengganu Cycling Team (TSG) – MAS

15

OCBC Singapore Continental Cycling Team (TSI) – SIN

16

Team Nippo (PPO) – JPN

17

Aisan Racing Team (AIS) – JPN

18

KSPO (KSP) – KOR

19

Hengxiang Cycling Team (HEN) – CHN

20

Synergy – Baku Cycling Project

21

National

Malaysia National Cycling Federation

22

Indonesia National Team