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“I’m happy to be back to Malaysia. There are a lot of good stages for me and the weather is really nice."

Photo: Le Tour de Langkawi 2015

ANDREA GUARDINI

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JANEZ BRAJKOVIC

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MIGUEL ANGEL LOPEZ

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TOUR DE LANGKAWI

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23.02.2016 @ 16:30 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

In attendance to the top riders press conference at Alor Setar on the eve of stage 1 of the 21st Le Tour de Langkawi set to kick off from Kangar, seven of them agreed on one matter: the race is very open this year due to the absence of Genting Highlands on the route.

 

World Tour giants Astana who just won the Tour of Oman with Vincenzo Nibali will face pressure from all the other teams as they target both the overall classification with Colombian first timer Miguel Angel Lopez and super sprinter Andrea Guardini. “I’m not sure whether or not I can be considered the hot favourite”, Lopez declared. “All I know is that Le Tour de Langkawi is a very good race that suits Colombian climbers. Stage 4 will be my day for trying to win the race. In the first three stages, I’ll have to stay close to the team, which means at the front of the race because the team will be focusing on preparing sprints for Guardini.”

 

“This is my sixth time in a row taking part in Le Tour de Langkawi”, echoed Guardini who has had a solid warm with competing in all three stage races in the Middle East (Dubai Tour, Tour of Qatar, Tour of Oman from which he pulled out on Friday). “I’m happy to be back to Malaysia. There are a lot of good stages for me and the weather is really nice. I like it. I expect a lot of work to do for Astana but we won’t be able to do all the work, so I hope for other teams to contribute to chasing breakaways down. I haven’t set any particular goal for myself in terms of victories. It’s true that I hold the record here with 18 stage wins but no win is easy to get. Year after year, I can see this race growing. I’m not the only sprinter here. There are a lot of young fast sprinters, several Italian sprinters and I can see that Anuar [Manan] is skinnier than last year.”

 

Manan agreed on that comment. “I’m in a better shape than one year ago”, said the only Malaysian stage winner up to date. “I’ve had a good preparation and I also have good team-mates. Our [Terengganu] team is here with two sprinters [Hariff Salleh is the other one]. We’ll try to get a victory. We also have a good young climber with Amirul.”

 

On the sprinters competition, the 2011 Milan-Sanremo winner Matt Goss declared: “This is my first time in Malaysia. Le Tour de Langkawi is a race I’ve always looked at during my career and I always wanted to do it. Finally I get an opportunity with One Pro Cycling and there’ll be a lot of opportunities for sprinting here in the next eight days.”

 

Tour de France top ten finisher Janez Brajkovic is also a first timer in Malaysia. “I wouldn’t say I’m in good form but I have a decent form”, said the Slovenian who came 15th in the queen stage of the Tour of Oman at Green Mountain last Friday. “I expect stage 4 to make the difference. I’ll do my best but we at Unitedhealthcare have other cards to play with Johnny Clarke who did really well at the Sun Tour and Daniel Jaramillo who is a very good climber.”

 

Defending champions Dimension Data are back without Youcef Reguigui who is busy at the African championships but they have Jaco Venter who was crowned South African national champion last week. “We raced in the heat and humidity in similar conditions as here in Malaysia”, Venter noted. “We’re under pressure for winning Le Tour de Langkawi again but there’s no clear favourite for GC so we’ll firstly focus on stage wins with Reinhardt [Janse van Rensburg].”

 

Organised by Ciclista Sports Sdn Bhd, the 21st edition of Le Tour de Langkawi (LTdL) from 24 February to 2 March, 2016 is set to cover more than 1,100km over 8 stages, the UCI 2.HC (hors category) race featuring again as one of the biggest events on the UCI Asia Tour calendar.

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