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With a powerful attack 5km from the top of the final climb, Lopez left an elite group behind before riding to a solo win in the Tour de Langkawi queen stage; Jaramillo and van Rensburg completed the podium and Lopez is the new leader

Photo: Sirotti

ASTANA QAZAQSTAN TEAM

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MIGUEL ANGEL LOPEZ

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REINARDT JANSE VAN RENSBURG

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TOUR DE LANGKAWI

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27.02.2016 @ 12:19 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) lived up to his status as the huge favourite for the stage win on the queen stage of the Tour de Langkawi as he rode to a dominant solo win on the climb to the Cameron Highlands. A powerful attack with 5km to go on the relatively easy climb allowed him to drop an elite group of climbers and put 30 seconds into second-placed Daniel Jaramillo (Unitedhealthcare) and 35 seconds into a 15-rider group that was led to the line by Reinardt van Rensburg (Dimension Data). Lopez is also the new overall leader of the race.

 

At the start of the Tour de Langkawi, no one was really questioning that Miguel Angel Lopez was the overwhelming favourite for both the overall victory and the queen stage to the top of the Cameron Highlands. After all, the talented Colombian had recently proved his good form by winning the queen stage at the Tour de San Luis and marked himself out as one of the greatest climbing talents.

 

However, Lopez still had to deal with the pressure of going into the race as a marked man when the race finally hit the climbs in today’s queen stage after three days for the sprinters. He proved that he is just as strong in his head as he is in his legs and he fully lived up to his status by riding to a dominant solo win on a relatively easy final climb that was not really suited to pure climbers.

 

The stage ended with a long, gradual 30km drag to the top of an HC mountain, with the climb being split into two parts. A category 1 KOM sprint was located 14.5km from the finish and then a small descent led to the final uphill part that never got very steep.

 

At the bottom of the climb, an early break of Lukas Jaun (Roth), Shiki Kuroeda (Aisan) and Siu Wai Ho (HKSI) still had an advantage of 3.35. As soon as they hit the climb, Wang Meiyin (Hengxiang), Donaben Goh (Terengganu) and Loh Sea Keong (Malaysia) attacked and they quickly bridged the gap to the leaders. Jaun and Kuroueda were unable to match their speed but Ho hung on.

 

The quartet were still 2.15 ahead with 25km to go where rain started to fall on the riders. However, they were slowly losing ground as Tinkoff were riding hard in the diminished peloton and when Wang led Loh, Ho and Goh over the line in the KOM sprint with 14.5km to go, Evgeny Petrov, Michael Gogl, Jesper Hansen (all Tinkoff) and John Ebsen (ONE) were first from the peloton just one minute later.

 

Goh and Loh were both dropped, leaving just Ho and Wang to press on with 7km to go. Tinkoff were still setting a brutal pace and soon had the front dup in sight. Ho slightly lost contact before Gogl and Petrov brought them back just before they hit the steepest section.

 

A Drapac rider launched an immediate counterattack and passed the 5km to go mark with a small advantage. Tinkoff didn’t slow down though and quickly brought him back.

 

Just as the junction was made, Lopez made his expected attack. Tinkoff tried to respond but Gogl failed to close the gap and so the Colombian soloed away. Instead, it was Jonathan Clarke (Unitedhealthcare) to make a strong move and managed to rejoin the lone Astaan rider.

 

Lopez looked back and realized that h had some company and this prompted him to kick again. Clarke tried his best to follow and a hard fight allowed him to get back onto Lopez’ wheel. Meanwhile, Jaco Venter (Dimension Data) had taken over the pace-setting in the peloton which had been reduced to a dozen riders.

 

With 3km to go, Lopez attacked again and this time it was too much for Clarke who finally had to surrender. The gap widened very quickly and instead Clarke was caught by his teammate Daniel Jaramillo and Hansen who had attacked from the peloton.

 

There was no one stopping Lopez though as the Colombian marched on all the way to the finish, giving himself time to sit up to celebrate his win. Further back, Jaramillo dropped his two companions and made it to the finish with a time loss of 30 seconds. Clarke and Hansen were caught by a 13-rider group and it was Reinardt van Rensburg who beat Francisco Mancebo (Skydive) to claim third place 35 seconds behind the winner.

 

With the win, Lopez also takes the overall lead and he will head back into flat terrain with a 29-second advantage over van Rensburg while Jaramillo is four seconds further adrift in third. He now just has to survive four flatter stages, starting with tomorrow’s relatively flat run to the capital of Kuala Lumpur. There are three small category 4 climbs on the menu, with the final top coming at the 22.1km mark, but a bunch sprint seems to be on the cards.

 

The queen stage

After three stages for the sprinters, it was finally time for the queen stage at the Tour de Langkawi. The riders travelled 129.4km from Ipoh to the city of Tanah Rata in the Cameron Highlands. After a completely flat start, they faced a long 30km climb in the end which was split into two. The first category 1 KOM sprint came 14.5km from the top and then a short descent led to the final drag up to the top of the HC category climb at the finish.

 

The heat was again relentless when the 127 riders who finished yesterday’s stage gathered for the start. There was a small crash in the neutral zone which involved Kim Kun-Soo (KSPO) and Ma Guangtong (Hengxiang).

 

Guardini wins the first sprint

It was the usual fast beginning to the queen stage. After 10km of racing, no one had managed to escape despite the numerous attacks that were launched, mainly from Asian riders.

 

The peloton was still together at the first intermediate sprint which allowed Andrea Guardini (Astana) to extend his points classification lead by beating van Rensburg, Joao Pereira (Funvic) and Paolo Simion (Bardiani). The fast pace was too much for Nicola Ruffoni (Bardiani) who was dropped, suffering from his crash two days ago.

 

The break is formed

After the sprint, a 6-rider breakaway with Luca Chirico (Bardiani), Zheng Zhang, Wang Meiyin (Hengxiang) and Harrif Salleh (Terengganu) got clear but that was deemed too dangerous and brought back. The next attack at the 24km mark was much more successful as the peloton didn’t react to the acceleration from Lukas Jaun (Roth), Shiki Kuroeda (Aisan) and Siu Wai Ho (HKSI).

 

The gap had already gone out to 1.05 after 27km of racing and it was 3.58 after 36km of racing where Kuroeda beat Ho and Jaun in the second intermediate sprint. Seo Joo Young (KSPO) was first from the peloton which had allowed the advantage to reach 5.10 at the 38km mark.

 

The chase gets organized

At the end of a very fast first hour during which the riders had covered 46km, the gap had gone out to 6.27 and this was the signal for Unitedhealthcare to hit the front. The Americans slowly started to reel the escapees in, reducing the gap to 5.30 at the 50km mark and to 4.14 at the 58km mark before it again went out to 5 minutes.

 

Tinkoff and Drapac joined forces with the Americans and this had an effect on the gap which was 3.35 after 78km of racing. At this point, the injured Ruffoni left the race and Kuroeda won the final intermediate sprint ahead of Jaun and Ho while Juraj Sagan (Tinkoff) was first from the peloton. Moments later, they hit the climb where the real action unfolded.

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