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After a crash again had marred the finish, Palini narrowly beat Guardini in a close sprint on stage 2 of the Tour de Langkawi, with van Rensburg taking third; Guardini retained the lead

Photo: Le Tour de Langkawi 2016

ANDREA GUARDINI

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ANDREA PALINI

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ASTANA QAZAQSTAN TEAM

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REINARDT JANSE VAN RENSBURG

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TOUR DE LANGKAWI

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25.02.2016 @ 12:14 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Andrea Palini (Skydive) continued his excellent start to the year by breaking Andrea Guardini’s (Astana) dominance at the Tour de Langkawi in stage 2 of the Malaysian race. In a close and crash-marred sprint, the former Lampre-Merida rider narrowly held off his compatriot while Reinardt van Rensburg (Dimension Data) rolled across the line as a distant third. Guardini defended the overall lead.

 

Andrea Palini may no longer be a WorldTour rider but after he left Lampre-Merida, he has proved that he deserves a spot at the highest level. The Italian has developed into the strongest sprinter on the continental circuit and has picked up lots of wins during his time with the Skydive Dubai team.

 

Whenever he has had the change to challenge the WorldTour riders, he has shown that he is able to mix it up with the best in the bunch sprints but until today his time in the UAE had not allowed him to win a race at the top level. That changed in today’s second stage at the Tour de Langkawi when he finally added a top level win to the many victories from smaller races.

 

The win was made even more impressive by the fact that he beat Mr. Tour de Langkawi, Andrea Guardini, in a close battle. The two Andreas went head to head and there was no fuss about the victory as the continental rider simply turned out to be faster than his famous compatriot.

 

Southeast and Astana kept riding on the front, with Laurens De Vreese taking some huge turns for the Kazakh team. A second group, mostly made up of local riders, was desperately trying to get back.

 

With 6km to go, Bardiani sent a rider on the attack and he was quickly joined by Tomohiro Hayakawa (Aisan) who even went straight past the Italian. The Japanese did well to build a solid lead with 4km to go.

 

Astana and Southeast had brought a strong 7-rider group back with 9km to go and were still leading the chase until Dimension Data took over. Bardiani surged past inside the final 3km and it was a big battle between the Italian and South African teams.

 

The strong Hayakawa was still ahead with 2km to go but he faced an uphill battle as Unitedhealthcare took control. Just before the flamme rouge, it was over for the Japanese who could only watch while the American team did the lead-out for John Murphy.

 

After Tanner Putt had taken a big turn, it was Ty Magner who led Murphy into the first of the two late turns, followed by Michael Kolar (Tinkoff). He was passed by the Dimension Data pair of Venter and Reinardt Janse van Resnsbrug who were first through the final corner.

 

Murphy tried to do a long sprint as soon as he exited the turn and thus managed to avoid the carnage when Nicola Ruffoni (Bardiani) hit the deck. However, he was easily passed by Palini and Guardini who went head to head in a close battle and it was the former who narrowly came out on top, with van Rensburg crossing the line in second place.

 

The technical finale had created some splits and this allowed Guardini to retain his overall lead even though he had actually lost it during the stage as Meiyin Wang (Hengxiang) had won all intermediate sprints. However, the split means that he now leads Palini by two seconds while the Chinese is third, 8 seconds further back.

 

He should get another chance to sprint for the win in tomorrow’s third stage which only contains a pair of category 4 climbs. The final challenge comes 14.9km from the finish from where the riders will be descending to another flat finale.

 

Two late climbs

After the opening flat stage, it was more flat terrain in stage 2 which brought the riders over 158.1km from Sungai Petani to Georgetown. After a flat first part, the faced a category 4 and a category 3 climb in quick succession in the finale. The final summit was located 29.3km from the flat finish where a bunch sprint was expected.

 

It was another very hot day in Malaysia when the riders gathered for the start. Two riders were absent as Ruslan Tleubayev (Astana) who broke his collarbone yesterday and Dominic Perez (7-Eleven) failed to take the start.

 

Five riders get clear

Unlike yesterday when the break was formed right from the beginning, the start was extremely fast with lots of attacks and it took a long time for a break to be formed. The right move was launched at the 22km mark when Wang Meiyin (Hengxiang), Loh Sea Keong (Malaysia) who were both in the break yesterday, Gong Hyo Suk (KSPO), Jamalidin Novardianto (Pegasus) and Nabil Mohd Bakri (NSC) escaped.

 

The peloton was content with the situation and had allowed the gap to go out to 1.40 after 25km of racing and it was 2.15 when Wang beat Nabil, Novardianto and Loh in the first intermediate sprint three kilometres later. As the peloton was not chasing yet, the gap went out to 3.20 at the 34km mark just before Wang beat Novardianto, Nabil and Gong in the second intermediate sprint.

 

Astana take control

Wang made it three in a row in the third sprint where he beat Nabil, Gong and Novardianto and the gap was still growing. It reached 4.15 after 50km of racing which was the signal for that Astana to hit the front with Arman Kamyshev and Dias Omiazkov.

 

The Kazakh pair kept the gap relatively stable and it was still 4.30 after 75km of racing. Here they upped the pace and at the end of two hours during which 84km had been covered, it was down to less than four minutes.

 

The break splits up

As the peloton hit the 17km Penang bridge after 90km of racing, the nervousness in the peloton made for higher speed and the gap quickly dropped below the three-minute mark. Astana were still not getting help as they hit the hillier terrain in the finale where Wang beat Loh and Nabil in the first KOM sprint.

 

The climbing took its toll as both Gong and Novardianto were dropped while the leading trio pressed on with an advantage of 2.40 with 42km to go. However, things got animated when they approached the second climb where the attacking started in the peloton.

 

Riders bridge across

Dimension Data used Songezo Jim and Adrien Niyonshuti to create a selection on the ascent where Wang won the KOM sprint ahead of Loh and Nabil while Jaco Venter from the South African team was first from the peloton. They then sent Johann van Zyl of in an attack and he joined forces with riders from Drapac, Unitedhealthcare and Bardiani to bridge the gap to the leaders.

 

The new seven-rider group had a 25-second advantage with 11km to go but they were now being chased hard by Southeast and Astana. With 9km to go, the work paid off for the two sprint teams as they brought it back together for the expected bunch sprint.

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