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Having positioned himself perfectly for the sprint, Guardini easily won the bunch kick on the first stage of the Tour de Langkawi, holding off Jones and Palini; the Italian is the first leader of the race

Photo: Le Tour de Langkawi 2015

ANDREA GUARDINI

RIDER PROFILE
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NEWS

ANDREA PALINI

RIDER PROFILE
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NEWS

ASTANA QAZAQSTAN TEAM

TEAM PROFILE
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NEWS

BRENTON JONES

NEWS

TOUR DE LANGKAWI

RACE PROFILE
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NEWS
24.02.2016 @ 14:22 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Andrea Guardini (Astana) confirmed his status as Mr. Tour de Langkawi by taking the victory on the first stage of the 2016 edition of the Malaysian race. Having positioned himself perfectly in the technical finale, he easily came out on top in the bunch kick, holding off Brenton Jones (Drapac) and Andrea Palini (Skydive) to take both the victory and the leader’s jersey

 

In 2011, Andrea Guardini took his first professional victory as a neo-pro on the first stage of the Tour de Langkawi. He went on to add another four wins to his tally in that race to kick off his pro career in the most impressive fashion.

 

The results made the Italians dream that they had found the future dominant sprinter. Those dreams have never been realized but while he has had a harder time in Europe, Guardini has continued to dominate in Malaysia.

 

Guardini has won stage in every edition of the Tour de Langkawi since 2011 and went into this year’s race as the record holder with 18 victories on his palmares. That made him the obvious favourite for the first stage in the sprint friendly race and he fully lived up to his status by taking a 19th career win.

 

Alongside the Southeast, Astana had controlled things firmly before they left it to other teams in the finale. Entering the final 10km, only Loh Sea Keong (Malaysia) had survived from the early break and everything was pointing towards a bunch sprint.

 

Bardiani and Southeast took control of the peloton and brought the lone Malaysian back with 8km to go. Bardiani held the front positions until just 4km remained when the Funvic team surged ahead.

 

Dimension Data lined up their train on the opposite side of the road but it was the Brazilian team that came out on top and led the group past the 3km to go mark. However, they ran out of steam too early and it became a disorganized chaos with very little control.

 

Dimension Data were in a good position as they line up their train on the left hand side on the road. They drifted backwards inside the final 2km as Team Roth took control.

 

The Swiss led the peloton past the flamme rouge but Guardini had done a great job to slot himself into third position, followed by Graeme Brown and Brenton Jones from Drapac. Brown surged ahead to do the lead-out but he lost Jones in the process.

 

Guardini was in a great position through the final turn just 200m from the line as he was third behind Brown and Dylan Page (Roth). Page and Guardini both launched the sprint but the Italian was clearly the fastest and took an easy win. Jones and Andrea Palini came fast in the end but were unable to catch the Astana rider and had to settle for second and third respectively.

 

With the win, Guardini takes the first leader’s jersey and he goes into stage 2 with a 2-second advantage over Meiyin Wang (Hengxiang) who picked up bonus seconds in the early break. He has a solid chance to make it two in a row as tomorrow’s only features two smaller climbs in the second half and as the final summit is located 29.3km from the finish, another bunch sprint is expected.

 

A flat opener

The 21st edition of the Tour de Langkawi kicked off with a 166.6km stage that brought the riders from Kangar to Baling. After a flat first half, the second half included two category 4 climbs and a category ascent just 24.6km from the finish. However, the final part of the stage was mostly downhill and most expected it to come down to a bunch sprint.

 

It was a very hot day when the riders gathered for the start. All 132 riders were present as they rolled out for the neutral ride.

 

Four riders get clear

As most expected a bunch sprint, it was no surprise that the breakaway was formed straight from the gun when Maher Hasnaoui (Skydive), Adiq Hussainie (Terengganu) and Loh Sea Keong (Malaysia) took off. They quickly built an advantage of 40 seconds but suddenly the peloton accelerated which allowed Meiyin Wang (Hengxiang) to bridge the gap.

 

The quartet had to work hard to get a real advantage but after 15km of racing, they had pushed the gap out to one minute. Zheng Zhang (Hengxiang) and Sun Xiaolong (Giant-Champion) tried to bridge the gap but never made it. Bai Li Jun (Giant-Champion) gave it a go when his two compatriots were brought back

 

Sprint win for Wang

The peloton finally slowed down and the gap had gone out to 2.55 when Wang beat Adiq, Hasnaoui and Loh in the first intermediate sprint. At the 25km mark, it had gone out to 4.25 while Bai was trailing by two minutes.

 

The peloton was in no hurry and as they approached the 50km mark, the escapees were 6.40 ahead. Bai was losing ground and as he was now 3.20 behind, he decided to sit up.

 

Astana hit the front

At the 50km mark, the gap was 6.50 and this gave the escapees time to contest the second intermediate sprint where Wang beat Adiq, Loh and Hasnaoui. Meanwhile, Astana finally started to chase as Arman Kamyshev hit the front for the Kazakh team.

 

The escapees covered 79km during the first two hours and added another 37km during the third hour. Astana were not chasing hard at this point and the gap was still 5.50 at the 80km mark. Meanwhile, Wang beat Loh and Adiq in the first KOM sprint while the order of passage on the second climb was Wang, Loh and Hasnaoui.

 

The chase gets organized

At the 100km mark, the peloton had finally started to chase for real as Southeast had joined forces with Astana to reduce the gap to four minutes. Those two teams slowly reduced the gap but the escapees still had a gap of a little more than 2 minutes when they entered the final 25km. Meanwhile, Adiq beat Wang, Hashnaoui and Loh in the final intermediate sprint

 

Wang beat Loh, Hasnaoui and Adiq in the final KOM sprint to become the first leader of the mountains competition. The escapees were still working well together but the climb took its toll and as Dimension Data came to the fore to lend a hand in the chase, the gap was only 1.00 as they started the descent.

 

Loh dropped his companions who were quickly swallowed up and he did his best to keep Astana and Southeast at bay. However, his advantage was down to just 15 second with 10km to go and he was rapidly losing ground. Moments later, it was all over and everything was set for a bunch sprint.

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