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Will Guardini make it four in a row in Kuala Kumpur?

Photo: Le Tour de Langkawi 2016

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TOUR DE LANGKAWI

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27.02.2016 @ 22:17 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

In addition to several one-day races in the weekend, this week offers two stage races, the Tour de Langkawi and the inaugural edition of the Tour La Provence. Every day we will offer you short previews of the stages at both the Malaysian and French race.

 

You can read previews of Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, GP Lugano and Drome Classic.

 

Tour de Langkawi, stage 5:

The course:

It is back into flat terrain for stage 5 which brings the riders over 148.8km from Tapah to the capital of Kuala Lumpur. There are two smaller category 4 climbs during the first 100km and a harder category 4 ascent just 22.1km from the finish. From there, the riders will descent to a flat finish in the capital. For once, the finish is not very technical as the final sharp turn comes with 1700m to go and then there is only a sweeping bend just after the flamme rouge.

 

The weather:

The riders could get more rain in Sunday’s stage. The day will get off to a sunny start with a maximum temperature of 33 degrees but late in the afternoon, there is a 25% chance of rain. Luckily the race is likely to have finished at that point. There will be a light win from a northerly direction which means that it will be a tailwind all day. It will also be a tailwind sprint.

 

The favourites:

Miguel Angel Lopez fully lived up to his status as the huge favourite and confirmed his huge potential. The final climb was easier than the roadbook indicated and it required great climbing skills to make a difference on that kind of ascent. To ride away from a relatively big group on those gradients goes a long way to prove that the Colombian will turn into one of the greatest climbers in the world.

 

Lopez now just has to stay safe during the final four stages to take overall victory. There is little doubt that Dimension Data will try to distance him and Reinardt van Rensburg is also likely to pick up some bonus seconds along the way. However, as he won’t win the pure bunch sprints, he is too far back and will probably have to settle for second place.

 

Traditionally a breakaway has made it in one of the stages after the queen stage as the small 6-rider teams have a hard time controlling things every day. However, that is unlikely to happen in stage 5. First of all, stage 6 is a lot hiller and so many escapees will save their legs for that one. Secondly, many sprinters have been competitive so Astana can expect to get some help from teams like Southeast, Androni, Unitedhealthcare and Dimension Data in their quest to make it a bunch sprint. Finally, the finish in Kuala Lumpur carries a certain prestige that makes a bunch sprint the most likely outcome.

 

The past sprints have been pretty technical and it has been more about positioning, acceleration and lead-outs than speed. Tomorrow is a big boulevard sprint at the end of a short, easy stage as the final climb is not a tough one. This is a stage for the fastest of the fastest and suits the pure sprinters.

 

This means that we again have to make Andrea Guardini the favourite. There is little doubt that he is the fastest rider here and this is the kind of sprint that he really loves. He misses lead-out man Ruslan Tleubayvev and that has cost him a bit in the technical finishes where he has had to fight hard for position. Here it will be more about pure speed and it is no coincidence that he has won it three times in the past. The fastest rider is likely to win this sprint and that is Guardini.

 

The second fastest rider is Jakub Mareczko. As soon as the finish got a bit less technical, he was close to the front in stage 3. Tomorrow it is even more about pure speed and this should suit the Italian. The Southeast lead-out also seems to be improving and if he is not too tired after a day in the mountains, he has the speed to challenge Guardini.

 

This kind of easy stage is also perfect for Francesco Chicchi. The veteran has no chance in the technical sprints as he positions himself terribly by in this kind of boulevard sprint he is still one of the fastest. He was a solid second in stage 3 and if his great team can again help him into a good position, this is the sprint that he can win.

 

John Murphy won the sprint on stage 3 and Unitedhealthcare have proved to be one of the best trains. The American has proved that he has the speed to beat the best when he is given a good lead-out. However, teams will be less important tomorrow and this will make it harder for him.

 

Brenton Jones is another rider for these easy stages. On paper he has a great team to support him and so it was a surprise to see them way too far back in stage 3. Graeme Brown won’t make that mistake twice in a row and Jones has proved that he has the speed to challenge the best.

 

Andrea Palini has proved that he has the speed to win here and he is great at positioning himself. However, he probably needs a more technical finish and a harder stage to win.

 

Until now, Tinkoff have been working for Michael Kolar but tomorrow they have decided to give neo-pro Erik Baska a chance. He was ninth when he was given an opportunity in the final stage in Dubai but even though he has a solid lead-out it will be hard for him to win at this level.

 

Finally we will point to Paolo Simion and Dylan Page. The latter crashed a few days ago but his top result in Mallorca proved that he is a very capable sprinter. The former will take over sprinting duties at Bardiani after Ruffoni’s withdrawal but he is probably not fast enough to win.

 

CyclingQuotes’ stage winner pick: Andrea Guardini

Other winner candidates: Jakub Mareczko, Francesco Chicchi

Outsiders: John Murphy, Brenton Jones, Andrea Palini

Jokers: Erik Baska, Paolo Simion, Dylan Page

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