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.
Joe Cooper – New Zealand National Team / PureBlack Racing
Prior to the start of today’s stage, Danielson finally succumbed to the right leg injury that had plagued him since crashing hard within the final three kilometres of stage 3. As recently as yesterday, Danielson had previously explained to media that his form was good and did not allude to any scenario other than finishing the race.
When the stage – this edition’s longest at 205.8km – did get underway, it was at a frenetic pace. 51 kilometres were covered in the first hour, during which multiple breakaway attempts were initiated and stifled. Early into the second hour, 16 riders were able to free themselves from the clutches of the peloton. In the break were Marco Canola (Colnago CSF Inox), Mathieu Claude (Team Europcar), Joseph Cooper (New Zealand), Yohann Gene (Europcar), Floris Goesinnen (Drapac Porsche), Choon Huat Goh (OCBC Singapore), Valentin Iglinskiy (Astana), Serguy Klimov (Rusvelo), Raymond Kreder (Garmin Barracuda), Karl Menzies (United Healthcare), Adrien Niyonshuti (MTN Qhubeka), Joon Yong Seo (Seoul Cycling), Hassan Suhardi (Malaysa), Hassan Suzuki (Malaysia), Valery Valynin (Rusvelo) and Jacques Janse van Rensburg (MTN Qhubeka).
Given MTN Qhubeka had two riders in the break it was particularly interesting that Champion System did not also dispatch a representative, given the Chinese-registered squad held only a slight lead over MTN Qhubeka in the overall team’s classification at the end of stage 6.
Of the 16 riders, Joe Cooper was best placed in 17th overall on the general classification – having previously held 5th place before the Genting climb, on which he wilted. Grasping the opportunity to reclaim time, whilst being no conceivable threat – in the eyes of the overall leaders – to the podium, Cooper influenced the pace of the small bunch by his constant presence at the front.
Bukit Genting, the day’s only summit (Category four, 90 elevation) at 95.5km elevation, barely registered under the breakaway’s wheels; proven by the average speed staying steady (51kph) after the first 100 kilometres.
The second intermediate sprint (at 117.3km) –won by Iglinsky on his way to a clean sweep of all three sprints – marked an additional milestone, with the breakaway’s lead over the peloton increasing to over three minutes. Additionally, two riders (Menzies and Sukuki) had been left behind after both suffered punctures.
All the way towards the finish, Cooper remained insistent at the front whilst his companions commenced their “dance of suspicion” and subsequent attacks. At the line, Canola bested Seo and Klimov whilst Cooper – legs spent from effort – bookended the group of thirteen front finishers. Andrea Guardini (Farnese Vini – Selle Italia) led the main peloton across the finish line 1’22” later.
Tomorrow’s eighth stage from Pekan to Cukai covers 100.8 kilometres with a category four summit at 47.7km. The weather forecast is for 24-28°C, with 94% humidity and a slight headwind as the race tracks north.
STAGE 7 RESULTS
GENERAL CLASSIFICATION AFTER STAGE SEVEN