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For the second day in a row, Guardini beat Ewan in a bunch sprint at the Tour de Langkawi and extended his overall lead in the process; Marezcko completed the podium

Photo: Muscat Municipality/Paumer/B.Bade

ANDREA GUARDINI

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ASTANA QAZAQSTAN TEAM

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TOUR DE LANGKAWI

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09.03.2015 @ 12:32 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Andrea Guardini (Astana) has been unstoppable right from the beginning of the year and today he continued his excellent season when he won his second consecutive stage on stage 2 of the Tour de Langkawi. Again he beat Caleb Ewan (Orica-GreenEDGE) into second while Jakub Mareczko (Southeast) completed the podium, and so he extended his overall lead to 8 seconds.

 

After a few poor seasons, Andrea Guardini has been on fire right from the start in the 2015 season. In the races in the Middle East, he finished in the top 3 in virtually every bunch sprint stage and crowned it all with a win on the opening stage of the Tour of Oman.

 

Since then he has travelled to Malaysia to the Tour de Langkawi which has always been a happy hunting ground for the Italian fast man. In his first professional race in 2011, he won 5 stages in the Malaysian race and he has the all-time record of stage wins in the event.

 

Yesterday he continued his momentum when he won the highly anticipated battle with Caleb Ewan in stage 1 and today he confirmed that it was no fluke when he again beat the Australian in stage 2. Despite wet roads and a less powerful lead-out train, Guardini negotiated the finale perfectly before launching his incredible speed and distancing Ewan and young Italian sprint talent Jakub Mareczko.

 

Like yesterday, however, it was no easy task for the small 6-rider teams to bring it back together for a bunch sprint. With 17km to go, the remnants of the early break – Elchin Asadov (Synergy Baku) and Sea Keong Loh (Malaysia) – were still 2.25 ahead and the wet roads didn’t make the chase any easier for the peloton.

 

However, Astana, Orica-GreenEDGE and Bretagne started to cooperate excellently in the tricky finale and with less than 10km to go, it was back together. From here, the fight for position was intense before Guardini came out on top.

 

With the win, Guardini extended his lead over Ewan to 8 seconds and he will again be in yellow in stage 3 which could be a tough affair for the sprinters. In the first half, the riders will go up a category 2 and a category 1 climb – the latter summits at 1006m of altitude – before they descend to a completely flat second half. This could be the day to make the first small selection and both a breakaway win and a reduced bunch sprint seem to be possible outcomes.

 

A flat stage

After the opening sprint stage, the fast finishers were expected to be back in action on day 2 which brought the riders over 185km from Alor Seta to Sungai Petani. The roads were mostly flat and with only two small category 4 climbs in the second half, a bunch sprint was the expected outcome.

 

The riders took the start in brutally hot and humid conditions as the riders were greeted by temperatures of 40-44 degrees and the threat of rain. As it is a tradition in Langkawi, they got the stage off to a very fast start with lots of attacks.

 

The break is formed

After 11km of racing, a single rider managed to get and he was quickly joined by another three riders, including Meiyin Wang (Hengxiang) and Loh Sea Keong (Malaysia) but just before the first intermediate sprint at the 14.4km mark, only Wang remained. He was first to cross the line while Wen Long Zhang (Giant), Robin Manullang (Pegasus) and Chris Sutton (Sky) were next. Moments later, it was all back together.

 

The attacking continued and the next rider to get a gap was Zhikang Gao (Hengxiang). However, he did not have any luck either. Instead it was the next move that was successful when Muhamad Adiq Husaini Othman (Terengganu), Jianpeng Liu (Hengxiang), Elchin Asadov (Synergy Baku), Patria Rastra (Pegasus), Mohamed Afiq Huznie Othman (National Sports Council) and Sea Keong Loh (Malaysia) took off.

 

Astana take control

Adiq Othman was first across the line in the second sprint, followed by Asadov, Rastra and Liu and now the peloton slowed down. While Astana took over the lead in the bunch, the gap started to grow and reached 1.35 after 30km of racing.

 

Four Astana riders led the peloton while the gap continued to grow. At the 50km mark, it was 2 minutes but the Kazakh team was unwilling to take any risks and so they were unwilling to allow it to get any bigger.

 

Adiq Othman drops back

In the feed zone at the 78km mark, the gap was still two minutes and the cooperation in the front group was no longer perfect as Asadov was not contributing to the pace-setting. Moments later, Rastra beat Liu, Adiq Othman and Asadov in the final intermediate sprint.

 

The sprint points were the goal for Adiq Othman who decided to wait for the peloton which was still only 1.55 behind at the 111km mark. While Asadov was still not contributing to the work, the front group started to accelerate though and at the 126km mark, they had increased the gap to 2.20.

 

Loh and Asadov attack

Rastra beat Afiq Othman and Liu and in the first KOM sprint after 132km of racing. Meanwhile, it started to rain, making the roads very slick and dangerous.

 

The cooperation in the front group was over and after several attacks, Loh got clear. He was joined by Asadov and those two riders were still 2.25 ahead with 17km to go.

 

The chase gets organized

In the peloton, Bretagne and Orica-GreenEDGE had now joined forces with Astana and they were riding at full speed. They picked up the three chasers but with 15km to go, the escapees were still 1.45 ahead.

 

However, they were now losing ground quickly and with 10km to go, it was only 32 seconds. Moments later, it was all back together and now the fight for position was fierce. Torku and Orica-GreenEDGE were both very active before Southeast took over. Tinkoff-Saxo were next to take control but in the end Guardini came out on top.

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