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After an easy day in the saddle, Ewan finally managed to beat Guardini in a Tour de Langkawi bunch sprint as the Italian could only manage 5th in stage 6; Ewan also defended the lead

Photo: Con Chronis

CHRISTOPHER SUTTON

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TEAM JAYCO ALULA (FORKERT)

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TOUR DE LANGKAWI

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13.03.2015 @ 12:21 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Having come up short in the first three full bunch sprints of the race, Caleb Ewan (Orica-GreenEDGE) finally came out on top in today’s stage 6 which was again decided by the fast finishers. The Australian beat Jakub Mareczko (Southeast) and Chris Sutton (Sky) into the minor podium spots to win the stage and extend his overall lead while Andrea Guardini (Astana) could only manage 5th.

 

Going into the Tour de Langkawi, sprint sensation Andrea Guardini was keen to see how he would fare against in-form top sprinter Andrea Guardini. However, the young Australian has been forced to accept that he still has some work to do as he has been beaten by the Italian in the first three bunch sprints of the race.

 

Going into today’s stage 6, the event still had been a hugely successful one for Ewan as he won the hard stage 3 where Guardini had been dropped on a big climb and has been the leader of the race since that day. However, something was still missing for the young Australian as he desperately wanted to beat Guardini in a sprint.

 

Today things finally came together for the fast Australian when he won the short, flat stage 6 of the race. This time there was no one stopping Ewan who beat Jakub Mareczko and Chris Sutton in the final dash to the line on a day when Guardini could only manage 5th – one of his poorest sprint performances in what has been an incredible 2015 season.

 

The sprint came after an unusually calm day. With the queen stage coming up, most seem to be prepared to save themselves for tomorrow and so the first attack was the one that stuck. Four riders were never given more than a two-minute advantage and Astana and Orica-GreenEDGE brought everything back together for the bunch sprint with 5km to go.

 

With the win, Ewan extended his overall lead to 27 seconds over Natnael Berhane (MTN-Qhubeka) but he is unlikely to defend his position in tomorrow’s queen stage. Originally set to finish on the brutal Genting Highlands, the stage has been changed due to road construction and will now finish on the much easier Fraser’s Hill. Nonetheless, this will be the scene for the big GC battle where the climbers will try to make the difference before the final sprint stage.

 

A short, flat stage

After the escapees had their day in the spotlight yesterday, the sprinters were expected to get back into action on stage 6 which was a short, intense affair over 96.6km from Maran to Karak. With no categorized climbs and a very short distance, it seemed to be the perfect day for another bunch sprint

 

Gong Hyo Suk (KSPO) was the only non-starter as the rest of the peloton left Maran in the usual brutally hot conditions. In the past few days, it has taken a long time for the break to get formed but today it seemed that everybody was intent on having a quiet day. Hence, there was no reaction when Simone Andreeta (Bardiani), Enver Asanov (Synergy Baku), Soon Yeong Kwon (KSPO) and Xiaolong Sun (Giant) attacked straight from the gun and after 2km of racing, they were already one minute ahead.

 

The break takes off

In short a short stage, the sprint teams were unwilling to take any risks and so Astana soon went to the front to start a chase. At the 13km mark, they had brought the gap down to 1.30 and this prompted Ahmad Ameer (Malaysia) to try to bridge the gap.

 

The Malaysian had no success and so he was soon back in the peloton where Astana kept the gap around 1.30. Meanwhile, Andreeta beat Sun, Asanov and Kwon in the first intermediate sprint and the Italian led Andreeta, Kwon, Asanov and Sun across the line in the second sprint too.

 

Andreeta tries to attack

The gap constantly hovered between 1.00 and 1.30. At the 50km mark, it was down to 1.10 but when Andreeta beat Kwon, Asanov and Sun in the final intermediate sprint, the escapees had again extended their advantage to 1.30. This was the signal for Orica-GreenEDGE to lend Astana a hand and with 20km to go, those two teams had brought it down to 1.02.

 

With 10km to go, the escapees were only 20 seconds ahead and 2km later, Andreeta desperately tried to keep the break alive by launching a solo attack. He was soon reined in and with 5km to go, it was all back together.

 

MTN-Qhubeka moved to the front alongside Astana, trying to set Youcef Reguigui up for the win but in the end it was Ewan who turned out to be the fastest.

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