KUALA LUMPUR: Defending champion Rafaa Chtioui returns to lead his Skydive Dubai team which is set on a collision course with Iran’s Pishgaman Giant Team and Indonesia’s Pegasus Cycling Team in what is expected to be an intriguing battle for the overall title in Jelajah Malaysia 2015.
Tunisia’s Chtioui will want to repeat his resounding success when he became the first African rider to win the Jelajah Malaysia overall title last year, again backed by his energetic and versatile teammate Soufianne Haddi of Morocco in a team that includes Spanish veteran Francisco Mancebo, former Spanish national champion and podium finisher in the Vuelta a Espana in a formidable Skydive Dubai line-up.
But it won’t be an easy ride to victory this time with Pishgaman lining up former Asian champion and Le Tour de Langkawi (LTdL) Asian riders classification winner Hossein Askari, a veteran of many victories on Malaysian soil, who will be backed by a squad that includes fellow-veteran Amir Zargari.
The onus is on Askari this time, as the 40-year old is chasing the UCI Asia Tour overall individual title. He currently sits in third in the rankings with 335 points and is 43 points behind compatriot and former teammate Mirsamad Pourseyedigolakhour of the Tabriz Petrochemical team.
Pishgaman will also want to extend their lead in the UCI Asia Tour teams classification, in which they now hold a 236-point lead over Tabriz.
But the threat posed by the lively Pegasus team should not be discounted, with the Indonesian outfit already proving their worth when they won the overall teams classification in LTdL earlier this year. They will again count on last year’s Jelajah Malaysia overall Asian riders classification winner Dani Lesmana to deliver.
The startlist shows a healthy line-up of potential winners and sprinters, including the likes of Australia’s Jai Crawford, who now leads the Japanese outfit Kinan Cycling Team.
Hosts Malaysia’s challenge will be led by the Terengganu Cycling Team (TSG), who will be out to retain the green jersey won by Harrif Salleh last year. The TSG outfit will also line up star sprinter Anuar Manan and former World Junior Track Championships bronze medallist Adiq Husainie Othman, who will be racing just days after his wedding.
Malaysia will also look to the NSC Cycling Team (NSC), who will be on a strong vein of form with Nik Mohd Azwan Zulkifle coming straight from his overall victory in the Tour de Siak in Indonesia last week.
The Jelajah Malaysia 2015 is scheduled to be held from 9th to 13th December and is a UCI sanctioned 2.2 class race, organised by the Malaysian National Cycling Federation, which was represented at the launch by president Yg Bhg Datuk Hj Abu Samah Abdul Wahab.