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.
Screenshot of the final sprint from Radio Televisyen Malaysia’s live stream – a great complement to LTdL’s official Twitter feed
As noted in yesterday’s report, fourteen Malaysian cyclists were still in the race when the stage officially commenced at 10:07 local time. Fittingly, Malaysians Sea Keong Loh (OCBC Singapore) and Zainal Rizuan (Malaysia National Team) initiated the first attack – together with Joon Yong Seo of Seoul Cycling team – in the first kilometre but the trio were quickly absorbed back into the field.
The bunch held together through the first sprint in Dungun (at 38.9km), which was won by local sprinter Harrif Salleh (Terengganu Cycling Team), ahead of Andrea Di Corrado (Colnago CSF Inox) and quadruple stage winner Andrea Guardini (Farnese Vini – Selle Italia). The patriotic crowd in Dungun could have been forgiven for expecting Salleh would repeat the feat in the final sprint 127 kilometres further up the road.
Attacks were so constant that Jean-Francois Quenet, the French journalist responsible for Tour de Langkawi’s official Twitter feed, struggled to inject pre-stage quotes and historical tidbits between new developments on the road.
A high pace (51kph) still didn’t convince Nathan Haas (Garmin Barracuda) that a breakaway should not succeed; a sentiment obviously shared by 2007 LTdL winner Anthony Charteau (Europcar), Jaques Van Rensburg (MTN Qhubeka) and David McCann (RTS Racing Team) as they joined Haas for a long-range assault on the peloton.
Of the quartet, Rensburg was highest placed at 7’03” behind yellow jersey wearer Jose Serpa (Androni Giocattoli) which meant the leader’s teams could allow the experienced breakaway only a small degree of elasticity. Indeed, their lead never exceeded three minutes and, after 100 kilometres of racing, had been constrained to less than two minutes.
As Drapac riders moved up to the head of the peloton, Quenet openly pondered their involvement in the chase. In his view, there was no logical reason for the Australian team to be interested in a bunch sprint – Drapac’s highest placing in a mass finish thus far had come via Malcolm Rupolph, who placed 30th in stage four. The truth was, after Darren Lapthorne’s implosion on Genting – and subsequent loss of the leader’s jersey – a stage win had become an important objective for the privately-backed team with renewed ambitions of ProContinental status.
With six kilometres remaining, Drapac had successfully co-ordinated the destruction of the break’s ambitions and the field of 119 riders was together again. Straightforward as they appeared on paper, and on live television, the final five kilometres hosted the day’s most dramatic scenes when a mid-pack crash rippled through and across the peloton, scattering riders like dominos.
This inexplicable tumble – on a wide, straight road – instantly rewarded the leading 20-25 riders with the luxury of time as they realized their fallen peers would never recover in time to bridge back on before the finish line. Passing under the 1km banner, Andrea Guardini was the only rider in the lead group of 18 riders to be accompanied by two other teammates; compatriots Thomas Bertolini and Cristian Benenati; though their presence was almost immaterial as Guardini powered over the line a clear bike length in front of Matteo Pelucchi (Europcar) and Raymond Kreder (Garmin Barracuda) for his fifth stage win.
Terengganu (the team and the State) did not miss out entirely, with Zamri and Harrif placing 8th and 10th respectively. Both riders will have an opportunity to learn from the finish today in several ways – tomorrow’s final stage will use exactly the same roads for the final 1.7 kilometres.
Tomorrow’s tenth and final stage from Tasik Kenyir to Kuala Terengganu covers 114.8 kilometres with three intermediate sprints and no categorised climbs. The weather forecast is for 23-31°C, with moderate rain and light SW wind.
Jonathan Breekveldt (Team Manager, Drapac Cycling)
We wanted to have a sprint. We have a pretty good sprinter in Malcolm Rudolph and this morning – obviously after the Genting stage our priorities shifted from winning other classifications to stage wins – Mal told us he was up for a win. We took the initiative to control the race, knowing we were able to bring it back and set up Mal to give him the best possible chance against Guardini. He let the break go, there was no one in the break high on GC, and no drive from Androni or anybody else – who knew what Farnese wanted to do – so we took the initiative. If you want to win stages you have to do the work, so we did the work.
His (Rudolph’s) results so far haven’t reflected how he’s going. He’s a new rider for us. Early on, the results weren’t that hot because (Rhys) Pollock, (Darren Lapthorne) Lappers and (Floris) Goesinnen were trying to understand the best way to drop him off after a leadout and also read the Farnese outfit and their train. We’ve been starting to get the hang of it and Malcolm was ready today. We knew it was going to be a bunch kick.
I don’t know which rider, but I heard from one of our boys that one of the riders was decelerating and bought riders down. It was someone from a ProContinental team, that’s all I can tell you. The conditions were very wet and slipper;, it’s nearly impossible to right yourself in those conditions. It completely blocked the ride, and unfortunately Mal was caught up in it.
The chase (to reel the four man break in) was all done off our own backs. There were no alliances. Unfortunately it didn’t pay off, but if you’re not willing to lose a stage you’re never going to win it. Of course, we anticipate it will be another bunch finish tomorrow; Farnese will want to make it six wins. We’ll try everything to win. Lappers is not in the best condition and Rhys has just come down sick, but we’ll do our best for Malcolm.
Terengganu (Cycling Team) will be trying hard to get a win in their home town. It’s important for the race and good luck to them. As much as we will be trying to win, it would be great to at least see them on the dais. It would encourage the people that have put all that money into getting the race over here.
STAGE 9 RESULTS
GENERAL CLASSIFICATION AFTER STAGE NINE
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