With only one major climb featured over the ten days of racing in Malaysia, today’s individual time trial was all about positioning; both chronologically and psychologically. A well-conditioned rouleur could potentially snare a time gap that would secure the leader’s jersey for good.
Last Malaysian home, 25 year old Zainal M. Nor Rizuan
Though the 20.3km circuit – with a birds-eye profile remarkably similar to the 2D silhouette of a contemporary Anglepoise desk lamp – was basically devoid of elevation, it’s length would be too great for pure sprinters and prologue specialists. The distance would also not be kind to out-of-form riders – as the six-minute gap between first and last place later demonstrated.
See? Desk lamp.
Riders were only permitted to use their “standard” road bikes; though consent was given for aero bars to be fitted, in accordance with article 1.3.023 in the UCI regulations. While the array of aero-form road bikes on display were visually distinct from the TT-specific form-design spectators have become accustomed to, some frames – like that used by Taiwan’s RTS Racing team – occasionally blurred the lines.
Monsoonal rain had swept over Kuala Lumpur earlier in the morning but by the time New Zealand’s Roman Van Uden (NZ National Team) christened the start ramp at 09:00 local time, the temperature was already north of 30°C and all roads were bone dry. Spectators, on the other hand, were beginning to drip with humidity.
A constant stream of 132 riders – each launching one minute apart – followed Van Uden onto the windless course, with Jose Serpa (Androni Giocattoli), Tom Danielson (Garmin Barracuda) and Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana) the final three taking to the road. In what may have been a nostalgic tribute to a bygone era, ‘Vino’ chose not to fit his Specialized road bike with aero bars. Ultimately, his 40th placing betrayed the condition of a rider well into retirement phase.
By contrast, Dave Zabriskie (Garmin Barracuda) – on a very aero-looking Cervelo S5 with 80mm deep wheels and aero bars – revealed the fruits of early season labour as he crossed the line one minute clear of second-placed Adam Phelan (Drapac Cycling). Darren Lapthorne claimed the final podium step a further seven seconds behind teammate Phelan. Seventh-placed Dmitriy Gruzdev (Astana) claimed the white jersey of best Asian rider; thus validating his silver medal ITT performance at the recent Asian Cycling Championships.
“I didn’t really have any confirmation of how my time was until the whole thing was over I guess” stated a perpetually laid-back Zabriskie in the post-stage interview, “It was good. I’m very happy.”
“Those guys (Zabriskie’s close rivals) have to take every stage with some seriousness. They’re all close together. It’ll come down to the hilly stage, the Genting stage (day six). It’s my first time down here (in Malaysia) but I think I’m climbing a lot better than I was last year. I stayed in California most of the off-season. I didn’t go to the team training camp. My (own) training camp was a couple of months long, not two weeks long. I had a good time training this winter. I think I was pretty productive. I definitely worked out a few things that I was missing last year. I feel like I’m in good shape.”
Tomorrow (Saturday) morning, the race will transfer 70km to the start of the second stage in Putrajaya. From there, the peloton will track a southeast heading for 151km, finishing with a flat 5km run into the UNESCO World Heritage listed city of Melaka.
RESULTS AFTER STAGE ONE
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