Is there a better host country for a bicycle race in Asia than Malaysia? Climate, terrain, food, cycling culture, organizational nous – all the boxes are ticked. The nation has already hosted three major professional cycling events this year, including the 2012 Asian Cycling Championships, with more UCI-accredited races reportedly on the way for 2013.
As professional road cycling continues to spread its global wings, it has been fascinating to witness the number of Asian, Australian and Kiwi cyclists breaking into the top echelon of professional road cycling; sometimes via quite long and convoluted pathways. Today, Cycling iQ looks at where “home” is for Asia’s top riders.
In yesterday’s ninth stage, Terengganu locals had their hopes quashed by an unfortunate crash that wiped Malaysian sprinters Anuar Manan and Harrif Salleh from stage win contention. Today was the last chance for a Malaysian stage victory.
Pouring rain didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of Kuala Terengganu’s cycling-mad population at the start of today’s 165.7km ninth stage. Terengganu’s capital city is hosting the final two stage finishes of this year’s Tour de Langkawi – a win by a Terengganu Cycling Team rider would be the ultimate payoff for its investment.
Today the peloton entered the state of Terengganu, where it will remain until the race’s conclusion on Sunday. This is a first for the Tour de Langkawi, as all previous editions have finished in Kuala Lumpur on the other side of Malaysia Peninsular.
The official stage 7 start list handed out to media listed 123 riders, but this was notched back to 122 due to Tom Danielson’s withdrawal. This came after the Garmin Barracuda star climber finished yesterday’s Genting stage more than 18 minutes behind winner Jose Serpa.
Fans of professional cycling may not be able to identify with “Genting” as frequently as they might “Alpe d’Huez”. However, Genting invokes as much respect from riders as the famous hairpinned climb in France.
Triple stage winner Andrea Guardini (Farnese Vini – Selle Italia) pre-empted today’s 190km stage, with its three categorized climbs, by delivering an earlier statement that he would be riding “tranquillo” until the parcours flattened again. He didn’t mention anything about his teammates.
On paper, today’s 169.4km fourth stage from Batu Pahat to Muar could have been easily underestimated as another springboard for a bunch sprint. In fact the general sentiment was exactly that. There was probably no point in getting excited if a break went up the road; it would only be reeled in. All so predictable.
Distance aside, today’s 187.6km stage could easily be reported as a carbon copy of yesterday; oppressive heat and humidity, early attacks by Asian Continental teams, a small breakaway forming and staying away all day only to be enveloped by the peloton with a few kilometres remaining.