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“It’s been a bit difficult for me to take part in the sprints early on because there have been a few crashes, but today finally I managed to make it."

Photo: Jérémy-Günther-Heinz Jähnick

ANDREA GUARDINI

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ASTANA - PREMIER TECH

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JURAJ SAGAN

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MIGUEL ANGEL LOPEZ

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NTT PRO CYCLING TEAM

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ONE PRO CYCLING

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REINARDT JANSE VAN RENSBURG

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ROTH-SKODA

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TOUR DE LANGKAWI

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VINI ZABU KTM

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29.02.2016 @ 20:07 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

After several frustrating sprints, Jakub Mareczko (Southeast) continued his love affair with Asian races bu claiming his first ever victory in the Tour de Langkawi on the sixth stage of the race. After a late climb had split the field, he easily held off Juraj Sagan (Tinkoff) and Dylan Page (Roth) in a very technical finale. Disaster struck for Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) who suffered a mechanical with 6km to go and saw Reinardt van Rensburg (Dimension Data) take over the leader’s jersey with two stages to go.

 

We have gathered several reactions.

 

Jakub Mareczko: Today I finally managed to make it

“It’s been a bit difficult for me to take part in the sprints early on because there have been a few crashes, but today finally I managed to make it”, Jakub Mareczko commented. “Today there were more KOM primes than usual. It wasn’t easy to hold the place but my teammates kept me in the main group. In the last few corners in the run in to the finish, I stayed in the first three so I was in the right position for sprinting.”

 

Juraj Sagaan achieves first ever top result as a pro rider

The sixth stage of the Tour of Langkawi saw a late change in tactics for Tinkoff nearly pay off following a flat tire for Michael Kolar, and Juraj Sagan stepping up to take second.

 

“I’m happy for Juraj with his result today, and it will be good for his confidence, despite us planning to go for the sprint with Michael Kolar,” explained Sport Director Jan Valach after the finish. “On the descent of the last climb with 5km to go Michael had a flat tire on his back wheel and after a change it was too late to get back to the front.”

 

Tinkoff’s plan for the day was to take control of the race and to try to be in the breakaway before going for the sprint with Michael Kolar, and possibly picking up some bonus seconds for Jesper Hansen along the way.

 

Michael Gogl was the man for the breakaways and he tried his upmost to be in the day’s main move, trying on several occasions to make a break stick but each time being caught out by having GC riders in the move.

 

“The first time Michael Gogl was up the road it didn’t work as there was a GC rider there, so he went again after 60km and got clear with five others,” Valach continued. “Again though there was a dangerous GC rider there so it didn’t get more than two minutes before one rider attacked from this group and Michael was brought back to the peloton.”

 

With just one rider clear Tinkoff took up the chase with Erik Baška and Evgeny Petrov working hard to close the gap in the final 10km. On the final climb of the day the bunch was reduced to about 80 riders and it was over the top than Michael Kolar suffered a flat tire. At the same time the yellow jersey also had problems and the race split.

 

The small chasing group never regained contact with the front peloton and so 62 riders, including Hansen, Petrov and Sagan, raced towards the finish together with Sagan nearly pulling of the win.

 

“It was bad timing for Michael’s flat tire but at the front the guys reacted well to go for the sprint with Juraj,” concluded Valach. “There’s two stages left now for us to go for a stage win and we’ll continue with the goal of trying to move Jesper up on GC with just 20 seconds separating the first five riders.”

 

“I’m always helping others”, Sagan said. “But today I had the green light because our sprinter Michael Kolar had a flat tyre with 7km to go. This is my first international result as a pro. I’m quite happy with it.”

 

Dylan Page continues solid debut at the pro level

After sprinting to a top result in the Challenge Mallorca, Dylan Page was third in stage 6.

 

“It was a very nervous sprint”, Page explained. “I use my brakes the best I could to get this result, which is a great one for me since I’m a neo pro and we’re a new team in this category of racing. I crashed on stage 2 and I’ve struggled to sleep since but I’m back! This race has a great organisation. It’s a super Tour!”

 

ONE Pro Cycling had expected harder climbs in Langkawi

The plan for ONE Pro Cycling was to be active early, making sure we had a presence in the breakaway but keeping an eye on the all important time bonuses at intermediate sprints with George Harper. Mid race the team wanted to make the racing hard race with John Ebsen and Richard Handley to draw the other teams out before setting Harper up for a late attack on the final climb before the fast run in to the finish.

 

As the race unfolded, amongst the action James Oram slipped away in a 6 man move, as the highest represented rider on GC his break away companions weren’t that happy about his presence and their lead only reached 2 minutes 20 seconds, as Astana controlled the peloton. This gave ONE Pro Cycling the opportunity to claim 2 time bonus sprints and improve on Oram’s overall GC position by one place and he now sits in 16th position.

 

After the time bonus sprints, Oram came back to the peloton and recovered for the part he had to play in the final. United HealthCare rode hard in the mid section of the race and made the tempo fast thus neutralising any possible attacks before sending one of their own riders away. At this point in the stage the team sat back, before taking control of the peloton on the run in to the final climb. At just under 25km to Matt Goss set a hard tempo, lining the peloton out in the process. Richard Handley and eventually 2 riders from the Tinkoff team joined in the pacemaking. This upped the tempo as the team got closer to the final climb of the day. Once onto the climb Richard Handley and Tinkoff continued to drive the pace. But unfortunately the climb wasn’t as severe as it appeared in the road book and so the expected shake up in the peloton didn’t really happen.

 

ONE Pro Cycling still persisted with the attack as the road kicked up in the final 1km of the climb. George Harper launched a strong attack however he wasn’t able to gain a big enough advantage before the descent. A bunch sprint was to ensue, Harper was well placed in the top 8 coming into the final few corners, but a big crash in the peloton on the second to last corner meant he once again didn’t get a clean run in the sprint. Karol Domagalski picked a different line and avoided the crash and finished in 12th.  

 

George Harper still sits in 4th overall on the general classification 16 seconds off the yellow jersey and 4 seconds off 3rdposition. 

 

Van Rensburg: This is not a nice way to take the jersey

Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka had a plan for the final 16km and the entire team came to the front just before the final cat 3 climb of the day. The African Team put in a huge acceleration on the positive slope, hoping to split the peloton. Putt was caught on the climb but unfortunately the climb was not hard enough to cause any splits in the race.

 

As the peloton descended toward the line, the race leader Lopez punctured with around 7km to go. Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka were preparing Janse van Rensburg for the sprint at the head of the race and then Drapac hit the front with 2km to go. An off camber 180-degree bend came with 500m to go, riders dived into the corner at high speed and some went down. Janse van Rensburg was hit from the side by another rider, fortunately the South African did not fall but he was unable to take part in the sprint as his chain had dropped.

 

Among the chaos of the final corner, Lopez was still trying to get back to the peloton but unfortunately for the Astana rider he would cross the line 39 seconds after the front group. This meant that Janse van Rensburg would move up into the overall race lead.

 

“I am really sorry for Lopez to lose the jersey in such a way,” he said. “I was in a good position for the sprint before a guy took me out in the corner at 500m to go, and I had to stop to put my chain back on. I have yellow now but it feels very bittersweet, taking the jersey in such a way and also losing my chance to go for the stage win.

 

”Songezo Jim and Adrien Niyonshuti did great to sit in the breaks today and put pressure on the other teams to chase. The rest of the team did a great job to get me in a good position for the sprint, unfortunately I missed my chance to sprint but gained the GC lead. Now we will need to defend the jersey for the final two days.

 

“I am really sorry for Lopez to lose the jersey in such a way. It is not the nicest way to take the jersey. I was looking forward to a bit more of a battle for the jersey, but I guess it’s cycling.

 

“I missed my chance to go for the victory today. Some guys went straight into me in the corner, they didn’t make the corner. I didn’t know if the guys didn’t see the corner or what, but they just kept on going straight instead of turning. My chain was off after that so I had to stop to put it back on. It is kind of bittersweet today, but yeah, I take it as it comes.

 

“The race changes now completely for us. We are going to have to defend. The bunch is really getting aggressive now, so I think it’s going to be quite a big fight tomorrow, and there is quite a climb early on. So we are going to have to be top of our game coming out.”

 

Sports director Jens Zemke added:
 

“Many times in the past the misfortune was on our shoulders, today it was on the shoulders of Astana. Their leader punctured with 7km to go and our boys were already preparing the sprint for Reinardt. We were focused on ourselves and wanted to win the stage with Reinardt.

 

”In the last corner at 500m to go Andrea Palini rode into Reinardt, he nearly crashed and his chain fell off. He had to stop but finally he received the same time as the front group and Lopez was in the 2nd group, he did not make it back to the leaders and that is the reason why we are in the leader’s jersey.”

 

Guardini decides to skip sprint on bad day for Lopez

“I was a bit full gas at 15km to go and I took the decision to leave this stage for rest and try to win another stage – tomorrow or the last stage”, the leader of the points competition Andrea Guardini said. “This was harder than the other stages. It’s unfortunate than my team-mate Lopez lost the yellow jersey due to a mechanical but that’s part of cycling.”

 

“It was unlucky day for our team, we made a good job during the whole day, but we had a technical problem just before the finish,” Astana sports director Dmitri Sedoun added.

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