On a day when the rain provided relief from the sweltering heat, Mohd Hariff Salleh of the Terengganu Cycling Team, created the biggest news in the Jelajah Malaysia in years when he romped to take four jerseys at the end of Stage Three from Kluang to Kuala Rompin.
With Ioannis Tamourdis of team SP Tableware in romping form to take the stage ahead of another bunch finish, the 158km ride was made a little easier with the pouring rain all along the long and winding route.
Hariff, who has been working in tandem with team-mate and Malaysian sprint King Anuar Manan all throughout the first two stages, was again in the chase at the front to eventually finish the stage on second with Anuar on third.
That was enough for Hariff to win the bonus points and allowed him to take over the tour leader yellow jersey, the sprinters’ green jersey, the best Asian rider blue jersey and also the 100PLUS white jersey for the best ranked Malaysian rider.
“In spite of the rain, I am of course satisfied with how things turned out – winning four jerseys on the day is very good indeed,” said the beaming 23-year-old who completed today’s stage with a time of 3:29:54.
“But my team was a little tired today as we had to do a lot of work to keep Mehdi (Sohrabi, the previous tour leader in the yellow jersey) in control.
“The plan was to take the stage today but under the circumstances, we can’t complain. We hope that we can win a stage before the tour ends this year.”
There were a lot more attacking today by the Malaysian teams at the start although it was not until after halfway through the stage near the town of Mersing that seven riders actually made a real break away.
And the seven included current tour leader Mehdi, last year’s champion David McCann (Giant Kenda) and also Mart Ojavee (Champion System), Luc Heganeurs (Team Eddy Merckx-Indelan), Shinpei Fukuda (Aisan) and Kenichi Suzuki (Aisan).
But the peloton was not about to be caught out and they worked hand in hand driving the train forward to eventually pulled up with the seven after the third sprint at Teluk Gading.
With the bunch taking several turns before crossing the line in what was the biggest reception thus far here in Kuala Rompin, it was Tamourdis who took the stage by inches over Hariff.
“It rained for much of the day but it was better to be wet than to ride under the very hot sun,” said Tamourdis afterwards.
“The race here has been very good for me in preparation for the Track World Championship (In Holland) next week and I’m very happy to take my first stage win this year.”
It was not only Mehdi who lost his shirt on the day where the King of the Mountain’s red jersey also changed hands with Kenichi Suzuki of the Aisan team taking over from Daniel Westmahelmann (Team Eddy Merckx-Indeland).
The first Cat. 4 climb at Kahang made all the difference for Kenichi, who was just a point adrift of Westmahelmann after stage two