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The Dutchman is the fastest in a technical finale after a long, hot day of 230km in the saddle and beats Kruopis and Duque into the minor podium spots in the bunch sprint; Pourseyedigolakhour defends yellow

Photo: Belkin Pro Cycling Team

AIDIS KRUOPIS

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LEONARDO DUQUE

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TEAM VISMA | LEASE A BIKE

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TOUR DE LANGKAWI

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05.03.2014 @ 09:47 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

After a number of frustrating days, Theo Bos finally got his second win in this year's Tour de Langkawi when the fast Dutchman proved his speed to win the 7th stage of the Malaysian race. After a very long 230km day that was raced at a high speed despite a headwind, the Dutchman was the fastest in the final bunch sprint when he held off Aidis Kruopis (Orica-GreenEDGE) and Leonardo Duque (Colombia) while Mirsamad Pourseyedigolakhour defended his overall lead after an impressive work by his Tabriz team.

 

After winning 6 stages in last year's Tour of Hainan, Theo Bos was keen to pickup a similar bag of wins when he arrived at the start of this year's Tour de Langkawi. With 9 potential bunch sprint, the opportunities were certainly there for the fast Dutchman but until now the race has been a frustrating experience.

 

Breakaway have denied the sprinters twice and Bos has been beaten in a sprint on further two occasions. The only time for things to go right for the Belkin sprinter was on stage 2 when his team was one of the few to stay ahead of the big crash, with Bos and Graeme Brown taking a 1-2 for the Dutch team.

 

Today Bos was finally bag in the winner's role when he launched his powerful sprint in the very technical finale in Pekan. Having again benefited from excellent teamwork, he held off Aidis Kruopis and Leonardo Duque in the bunch sprint that was always the expected outcome of the stage.

 

However, the 230 run from Kota Tinggi to Pekan was no easy task and like yesterday the pace was extremely fast right from the gun. It took more than 50km for the day's break to be established and when the elastic snapped, the yellow jersey of Mirsamad Pourseyedigolakhour was under threat.

 

The break included Yonathan Monsalve (YellowFluo) who had started the day less than 3 minutes down on the Iranian race leader and this forced the Tabriz team of Iranian climbers to chase for several hours on a flat terrain in a fierce headwind. In the end, they got assistance from the sprint teams and the day was saved but the team may pay a price for their hard work in the coming days.

 

For now, Pourseyedigolakhour still sits 8 seconds ahead of Merhawi Kudus (MTN-Qhubeka) on GC while Kruopis second consecutive runner-op spot was enough to move him into the lead in the points competition. He will be keen to add to his tally tomorrow when the race continues with another long 202.6km stage. Two category 4 climbs in the early part are the only challenges and the stage again seems to be one for the sprinters who are also likely to have their opportunities on the final two shorter stages on Friday and Saturday.

 

A long stage

The race continued with the second longest stage in the Tour de Langkawi history when the riders headed over 230.1km from Kota Tinggi to Pekan. There was a single category 1 climb in the early part but otherwise it was an entirely flat run where the wind was the only potential danger.

 

Asian racing is known as being extremely aggressive and in the last two days, the Tour de Langkawi has lived up to that reputation. For the second day in a row, the pace was furious right from the start and it took an awful long time for the break to be established - and the riders were even riding into a headwind.

 

First attacls

The first rider to give it a try was one of yesterday's attacker Jiang Zhi Hui (Giant-Champion) but at the 2km mark he was already back in the fold. It was followed by an attack from Michael Valgren (Tinkoff-Saxo) and Jeffry Romero (Colombia) but after 9km of racing, it was again back together.

 

Attacks kept going thick and fast but after 24km of racing, no one had still managed to slip clear. Taiji Nishitani (Aisan), Omar Bertazzo (Androni), and Antoine Duchesne (Europcar) all had unsuccessful solo attempt at this point but no one had any success.

 

Kochetkov and Ho abandon

A crash in the hectic beginning brought down Pavel Kochetkov (Katusha) and Ho Junrong (OCBC) who were both forced to abandon. A little later three riders went up the road, including points leader Thomas Rabou (OCBC) who was keen to score more points in the intermediate sprints.

 

This time there was no luck for the Dutchman and after 42km, it was back together. The riders now hit the only categorized climb of the day and this opened the door for a very dangerous break to go clear.

 

A dangerous break

The Belkin duo of Steven Kruijswijk and Jack Bobridge were joined by Pieter Weening (Orica-GreenEDGE), Pavel Brutt (Katusha), Carlos Quintero (Colombia) and Yonathan Monsalve (YellowFluo), and as Kruijswijk, Weening, Quinero, and Monsalves were all well-placed on GC, this was a threat to Pourseyedigolakhour's jersey. Monsalve led Quintero and Weening over the top of the climb as the riders had now covered 46km in the first hour of racing.

 

At the 47km mark, Tabrix had managed to neutralize the escape, and instead Brett Lancaster (Orica-GreenEDGE), stager 1 winner Duber Quintero (Colombia), and Eric Sheppard (OCBC) took off. Monsalves refused to give up and so he bridged across on his own, making it a front quartet.

 

The gap grows

Finally, the peloton decided that they had had enough of attacking racing and slowed down, allowing the gap to reach 2.10 already at the 55km mark. 6km further up the road, it was 3.10 and as Monsalves had started the day just 2.20 down on Pourseyedigolakhour, the 2011 winner was now the virtual leader.

 

Tabriz assumed their position on the front of the peloton and they had to ride pretty hard to stabilize the gap. The peloton was strung out while the Iranian team kept the advantage at around 3.30 for several kilometres, waiting for the sprint teams to lend them a hand.

 

The gap reaches 4 minutes

Lancaster was faster than Sheppard, Monsalve, and Quintero in the second intermediate sprint at the 118km mark where the gap had grown to 3.55 but Tabriz was still doing a good job not to let it get out of control. Sheppard was first across the line in the final intermediate sprint, ahead of Monsalve, Lancaster, and Quintero, and at that point the gap had reached 4 minutes.

 

With 80km to go, Belkin decided that it was time to organize a chase to set up Bos for the win but the gap was still growing. When Astana also came to the fore to support their sprinter Andrea Guardini, the advantage was 4.25.

 

The chase gets organized

The combined efforts of the two sprint teams had an effect and the gap was now coming down. With 59km to go, it was 3.25 and 50km from the line, it was 2.50.

 

With 40km to go, Monsalve had lost his virtual lead as the advantage was now 2.15 and when they passed the 30km to go banner, the sprint teams had it down to 1.30. As the riders were now heading along potential windy coastal roads, Sheppard made a solo attack from the front group and as only Lancaster and Monsalves could respond, Quintero fell back to the peloton.

 

The break is caught

Astana and Belkin were still setting the pace but Colombia had also started to move up. Monsalve was the first to give up and with 9km to go, Sheppard and Lancaster were also back in the peloton.

 

YellowFluo not hit the front, keen to deliver Francesco Chicchi to his first win in this year's race but in the end the Italian team was overtaken by Belkin who again delivered Bos to a win in the very technical finale in Pekan.

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