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After another very close battle with Mareczko, Guardini took stage win number 4 on the final day of the Tour de Langkawi; van Rensburg took the overall victory, with Jaramillo and Lopez making it two Colombians on the podium

Photo: Le Tour de Langkawi 2016

ANDREA GUARDINI

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ASTANA QAZAQSTAN TEAM

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MIGUEL ANGEL LOPEZ

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NTT PRO CYCLING TEAM

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REINARDT JANSE VAN RENSBURG

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TOUR DE LANGKAWI

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02.03.2016 @ 13:40 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Andrea Guardini (Astana) will again leave Malaysia with four stage wins in his pocket after he came out on top in the bunch sprint that decided the 8th and final stage of the race. In another hugely close battle, he narrowly held off compatriot Jakub Mareczko (Southeast) while Shiki Kuroeda (Aisan) was a surprise third. Reinardt van Rensburg (Dimension Data) rolled across the line in 12th to secure overall victory ahead of the Colombian pair of Daniel Jaramillo (Unitedhealthcare) and Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana).

 

In 2011, neo-professional Andrea Guardini lined up for his first ever Tour de Langkawi and made a storming entrance on the sprinting scene by claiming an impressive five stage wins. One year later he added another six to his tally and since then he has won stages in Malaysia every year.

 

His poorest result came in 2013 when he left the race with only one win and he had to settle for two in 2014. Last year he left Malaysia with four wins and this year he matched that score after making it two in a row by winning the final stage of the race for the third year in a row.

 

However, the number of wins doesn’t reflect the fact that he has been challenged hugely by Jakub Mareczko in the sprints in the second half of the race. The Southeast rider had a difficult start to the race but by ending the race with one with and two consecutive second places he proved that he has the speed to challenge his compatriot. Like yesterday, a photo finish was necessary to separate the two Italian when it all came down to the expected final bunch sprint in Melaka.

 

At the start of the first lap of the 7.9km finishing circuit, a trio of Loh Sea Keong (Malaysia), Seo Joo Yong (KSPO) and Chiu Ho San (HKSI) fought hard to maintain a small advantage. Riders from Drapac, Dimension Data, Southeast, Astana and Androni were trading pulls on the front, crossing the line with a deficit of just 1.03 and with Gavin Mannion and Songezo Jim on the front. Here Hengxiang surged forward and lined out most of their team on the front, narrowing the gap even further.

 

Seo led Chiu and Loh across the line after the first lap to win the final intermediate sprint while Zhao Jingbiao (Hengxiang) was first from the peloton. With a sprint win in his pocket, the South Korean sat up, leaving just two riders to press on.

 

The major sprint teams could save some energy while Hengxiang continued to ride on the front and they brought the break back halfway through the penultimate lap. A lone rider made an immediate counterattack but as Southeast returned to the front he had no success.

 

Androni took over the pace-setting for a short while before Janez Brajkovic took a short turn for Unitedhealthcare. However, it was Androni that were back in charge as they approached the finish line for the penultimate time.

 

A Unitedhealthcare rider made what looked like a small attack at the passage of the line but soon it was the Tinkoff team that controlled affairs. Evgeny Petrov set the pace for most of the first half of the lap before a Southeast rider took over.

 

Again Drapac proved that they have one of the best trains in the race as they moved ahead with 4km. However, they failed to maintain control as Nic Dougall, Johann van Zyl, Jaco Venter and Reinardt van Rensburg came to the fore just moments later.

 

The South African team stayed on the front for a long time but after Dougall had swung off, they lost the battle to an Aisan rider before a turn. A ONE rider led the peloton for most of the penultimate kilometre but as they passed the flamme rouge, a single Unitedhealthcare rider was leading the Tinkoff train of Juraj Sagan, Erik Baska and Michael Kolar.

 

Tinkoff launched their lead-out through the final turn with 500m to go and Kolar could start his sprint from the front. However, he was no match to Guardini and Jakub Mareczko who again went head to head in what was a very close battle. In the end, the Astana rider was first across the line to increase his impressive tally of stage wins to 22 while Shiki Kuroeda was a surprise third.

 

Reinardt van Rensburg failed to finish in the top 10 but that was enough to take the overall victory with an 18-second advantage over Daniel Jaramillo after he had picked up 3 bonus seconds in the first intermediate sprint and gained a few seconds due to a split in the finale. Miguel Angel Lopez was one second further back in third while veteran Francisco Manceo (Skydive) scored bonus seconds on the final day to move into fourth overall.

 

Guardini was of course a dominant winner of the points competition while Wang Meiyin (Heingxiang) was the best climber for the second time in his career. Mohammed Adiq Husainie (Terengganu) was the best Asian rider and Unitedhealthcare the best team. The best Asian team was Hengxiang.

 

With the Tour de Langkawi done and dusted, many riders will travel to Taiwan for the Tour of Taiwan which starts on March 6.

 

A flat stage

After yesterday’s very long stage, the race ended with a much shorter 119km run from Batu Pahat to Melaka. With no categorized climbs during the coastal run, it was completely flat and the race ended with three laps of a highly technical 7.9km finishing circuit. A bunch sprint was expected but with the GC being very close, the fight for bonus seconds could come into play.

 

It was another brutally hot day when the riders gathered for the start of the final stage. Ryan Macanally (Pegasus) was the only non-starter as the riders rolled out for a later start than usual.

 

Van Rensburg wins the sprint

Giant-Champion and KSPO were ready to attack from the gun and set the scene for the usual very fast start. Evgeni Petrov (Tinkoff) was also active but no one had managed to escape at the first intermediate sprint after 16km of racing. This allowed van Rensburg to score 3 bonus seconds as he beat Francisco Manceo (Skydive), Luca Chirico (Bardiani) and Lachlan Norris (Drapac) in the dash to the line. Mancebo and Chirico used the bonus seconds to improve their position in the top 10 of the overall standings.

 

Three riders get clear

After 25km of racing, Dylan Page (Roth), Masakazu Ito (Aisan), Kim-Kun Soo (KSPO), Choon Huat Goh (Terengganu) and Edgar Nieto (7Eleven) escaped and as the peloton took a short breather, they pushed their advantage out to 45 seconds during the next 3km. However, the peloton was not ready to slow down yet and at the 35km mark it was all back together.

 

James Oram (ONE), Seo Joo Yong (KSPO) and Loh Sea Keong (Malaysia) launched the next serious attack but again the peloton reacted strongly, bring it back. However, Loh refused to give up and after 40km of racing, he attacked again. This time he had Seo Joo Yong (KSPO) and Chiu Ho San (HKSI) for company and now they were finally allowed some leeway.

 

Three teams start to chase

At the end of a first hour during which 47.5km had been covered, the trio had an advantage of 1.55 and they worked well together, letting Seo lead Chiu and Loh across the line in the second intermediate sprint. Astana had taken control of the peloton and Dias Omirzakov was first from the peloton 4.50 later.

 

The gap went out to 5.20 before Astana stabilized the situation and as Drapac and Dimension Data also came to the fore, they had brought it down to 5 minutes at the 60km mark. Sixteen kilometres later it was already down to 3.20.

 

Unfortunately a crash forced local hero Ahmad Fauzan (Malaysia) to end his final Tour de Langkawi prematurely but that didn’t stop Drapac from upping the speed. 38km from the finish, they had narrowed the gap to just 2.55 and at the end of the first two hours during which 88.5km had been covered, it was 2.05. Moments later they hit the finishing circuit where it all came down to another bunch sprint.

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