Malaysian teams are on the roll in the Le Tour de Langkawi with Terengganu Inc. TSG Cycling Team, TSG cyclist Mohd Harrif Saleh winning the bunch sprint against favourite Italian, Andrea Guardini in stage two.
The Terengganu-born now becomes the second ever Malaysian stage winner, after another Terengganu-born Anuar Manan in 2010. It was an emotional victory for the 30-year old Harrif, having come close but left biting the dust on a number occasions since his debut in the race as a 19-year old in 2008.
“I finished second once and last year I came third twice, but I have always dreamt of a stage win in this race, especially in front of the home fans,”said Harrif Saleh, who dedicated the victory to his wife Nursyahira Nordin, 27, who is expecting their first child after five years of marriage.
An 11-man breakaway set the tone earlier in the stage, which later disintegrated into a three-man push for the finish line which was eventually caught by the peloton led by TSG, the Sapura team of yellow jersey holder Marcus Culey and the Bardiani-CSF team of record LTdL stage winner Guardini, with 25km to go.
In the final kilometre it was Guardini who emerged first, throwing down the gauntlet in search of his 25th victory in the race.
“In the final kilometre, my lead-out brought me to the front and I only started my sprint in the final 100m and then I saw Guardini was slowing down as he went early. So, I sensed this was the big chance I was waiting for,”said Harrif, who passed Guardini inside the final 25m.
“My strategy today was simple as my target was to try and win the stage, so I stayed in the peloton and waited for my turn to deliver. I also have to thank Sapura and the sprinters’ teams who helped control the race and bring back the breakaways,” Harrif added.
Culey finished in the peloton and retained the yellow jersey with a 9s lead over second placed Brendon Davids of Oliver’s Real Food Racing, while Floyd’s Pro Cycling’s Travis McCabe remained third, 12s adrift of the overall leader.
KSPO’s Kim Ji Hun replaced Vino-Astana’s Gregoriy Shtein as the Asian riders’ classification leader after being part of the breakaway and collecting bonus seconds in the intermediate sprints.
Oliver’s Real Food Racing’s Angus Lyons remained in the mountains classification lead with 34 points, ahead of Culey on 18 points and Malaysia’s Nik Mohd Azwan Zulkifle on 12.
Sapura also retained the teams classification lead, five seconds ahead of Bardiani-CSF, with South Africa’s Protouch level on time with the latter.
Another long an undulating stage awaits the peloton in Stage 3 tomorrow, which covers 192.9km from Muar to Putrajaya.
- Results after Stage 2
- General Classification (GC) Leader: Marcus Culey (Team Sapura Cycling)
- Sprint Leader: Marcus Culey (Team Sapura Cycling)
- Best Climber (KOM): Angus Lyons (Oliver’s Real Food Racing)
- Best Asian Rider: Kim Jihun (KSPO Bianchi Asia Pro Cycling)
- Best Malaysian Rider: Sofian Nabil Omar (Malaysia National Team)
- Best Team: Team Sapura Cycling
- Best Asian Team: Vino-Astana Motors (Kazakhstan)
ABOUT LE TOUR de LANGKAWI
Le Tour de Langkawi is a multiple stage bicycle race held in Malaysia conceived by Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, with the objective of putting Malaysia on the world sporting and tourism map. Held since the 1996, the race usually begins in Langkawi and includes major landmarks such as Genting Highlands and Dataran Merdeka.
The race is sanctioned by the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) as a 2.HC (hors category) race as part of the UCI Asia Tour calendar, and is the biggest cycle race in Asia. Because of the reputation it holds, the race regularly attracts top teams from the World Tour as well as other continental and national teams from Europe and Asia. This year’s race will take place from the 6th of April to the 13th of April.