MUAR : Just like Mekseb Debesay and Ryan Gibbons in the two previous stages, Italy’s Enrico Barbin opened his professional account at the 2017 Le Tour de Langkawi as he claimed his first victory at the age of 26 in Muar. He outsprinted Australia’s Anthony Giacoppo of IsoWhey Sports Swisswellness and his compatriot Filippo Pozzato from Wilier Triestina to deliver Bardiani CSF’s first win of the year and their first stage victory at LTdL since Marco Canola won solo in Kuantan in 2012.
The Italian squad managed by the Reverberis, father and son, is the oldest participant to LTdL, having made their first appearance as Scrigno in 1998 with five stage wins that year including the first ever as a pro for Alessandro Petacchi. Their organization is also the most successful in terms of stage victories in the history of the Malaysian premier stage race as Barbin bagged their 35th while Gianni Savio’s team now called Androni is second on the tally with 24, followed by the currently named Wilier Triestina outfit with 16.
“It’s an honour for me to become part of this history”, Barbin declared. “I was feeling well and my whole team too [his team-mate Lorenzo Rota was up the road for most of the stage along with Colombia’s Wilmar Paredes and Hong Kong’s Ronald Yeung who was awarded the daily prize of most combative rider]. I’m not fast enough to beat the fastest sprinters here but I took advantage of them. Through the radio, we had perfect explanation of the finale and where the wind was blowing from so it was a question of getting the best position over the bridge and anticipate the sprint with 300 metres to go.”
“We were working for [stage 3 winner Jakub] Mareczko”, Pozzato explained. “But Unitedhealthcare attacked in the wind after the bridge. Kuba followed them but it was a bit far away from the line. Barbin has been smart accelerating from behind. I went after him but I got blocked for a little while and when I resumed my sprint with no speed it was too difficult and too late.”
As much as Pozzato replaced Mareczko due to sprinting circumstances, Giacoppo found himself as a substitute for Scott Sunderland. “We were going for Scott”, the Western Australian said, “but he got caught out of position in the last corner so I went myself. When we caught Mareczko, I hesitated a bit. Maybe I should have kept going.”
“Safety first was at the back of my mind but I definitely wanted to be in the sprint”, commented Gibbons who retained the yellow jersey.
“Going over the bridge when we turned right, we were behind Unitedhealthcare but we lost the wheels and four of their riders and Mareczko got away. I spent all my energy trying to close the gap because I didn’t want to lose any time on the UHC rider who is high on GC [Daniel Jaramillo]. I brought the peloton with me but when the proper sprint started I already made my effort so I just focused on not crashing.”
“Today was the first day in the Tour that I wasn’t at 100%. Normally I feel good racing in the rain but I only found my legs in the third hour. Maybe the rain was a little factor. There was no real stress though. I see two more sprint opportunities. It would be really good to bring the yellow jersey home.” He concluded.
Stage 7 from the historical city of Melaka to Rembau will be 148km long with three climbs in the finale.
Organised by the Ministry of Youth and Sports Malaysia and managed by Ciclista Sports Sdn Bhd, the 22nd edition of Le Tour de Langkawi (LTdL) from 22 February to 1 March, 2017 is set to cover more than 1,200km over 8 stages, the UCI 2.HC (hors category) race featuring again as one of the biggest events on the UCI Asia Tour calendar.