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Mareczko came out on top in the very technical sprint on stage 6 of the Tour de Langkawi, easily holding off Sagan and Page; van Rensburg took the race lead as Lopez suffered a mechanical in the finale

Photo: Jérémy-Günther-Heinz Jähnick

JURAJ SAGAN

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NTT PRO CYCLING TEAM

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REINARDT JANSE VAN RENSBURG

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TOUR DE LANGKAWI

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VINI ZABU KTM

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29.02.2016 @ 14:14 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.

 

Jakub Mareczko has long been known as arguably the biggest Italian sprinting talent and he gave hints of his huge potential last autumn when he won a stage in the Tour of Hainan and completely dominated the Tour of Taihu Lake where he won seven out of nine stages and the overall. Earlier this year he proved that he can beat the world elite too when he came around Elia Viviani in the final stage of the Tour de San Luis.

 

Mareczko had expected to add to his Asian tally in the Tour de Langkawi which is always a bit of a sprint festival but the first part of the race has been a frustrating experience for the Southeast sprinter. A third place in stage 3 was his best result as he headed into today’s stage whose hilly finale didn’t suit a pure sprinter like him. However, Mareczko overcame the odds and survived the late climb before launching his devastating sprint and pick up his first win on Malaysian soil.

 

Mareczko’s win was partly overshadowed by the drama that occurred behind him. Race leader Miguel Angel Lopez suffered a mechanical on the final descent and was unable to get back in time, meaning that he slipped to third in the overall standings.

 

The final summit came just 7.8km from the finish and was expected to split things. The battle was heating up as they approached the climb, with Tanner Putt (Unitedhealthcare) desperately trying to hang on to a small advantage.

 

With 15km to go, Putt was only 50 seconds ahead and he saw his advantage melt away due to the hard work by ONE and Tinkoff. As they hit the final climb with 14km to go, Dimension Data upped the pace even further with Songezo Jim as they wanted to make the race hard to get rid of the pure sprinters.

 

The increased pace spelled the end for Putt who was brought back on the lower slopes. Jim and ONE kept riding all the way to the top, with George Harper (ONE) leading Jim, Jaco Venter and van Rensburg across the line in the KOM sprint.

 

Harper got a small advantage on the descent but Jim quickly brought him back. Southeast joined forces with the Dimension Data rider to make sure that no one attacked as they passed the 5km to go mark.

 

The lone Southeast riders swung off and left it to Johann van Zyl, Nic Dougall, Venter and van Rensburg to lead the peloton with 4km to go. Van Zyl took a huge turn until the Drapac train passed the South African riders and hit the front with five riders.

 

Drapac did an excellent job to string things out and led the peloton through the crucial 180-degree turn with 500m to go where a few riders hit the deck in the middle of the field. Unfortunately, Graeme Brown and Brenton Jones lost position in that corner and found themselves behind one of their teammate, Juraj Sagan, Mareczko and John Murphy as they again got up to speed.

 

The Drapac rider remained on the front until the final turn with 200m to go where Sagan launched his sprint. Starting his sprint effort from second position, Mareczko easily came around and held off Sagan and Dylan Page (Roth) to claim his first win in Malysia.

 

The finale was dramatic for Lopez who suffered a mechanical with 6km to go and desperately tried to rejoin the peloton. He crossed the line 39 seconds too late and even though a mechanical had prevented van Rensburg from doing the sprint, that time loss was enough for the South African to move into the race lead.

 

Van Rensburg now has an 11-second advantage over Jaramillo while Lopez is another second back in third. He will get his first chance to wear yellow in the longest stage of the race on the penultimate day. The riders will cover two early climbs but more than half of the stage is completely flat and so it could very well be another day for the sprinters.

 

A hilly stage

After yesterday’s flat stage, the final real climbing was on the menu in stage 6 which brought the riders over 147.6km from Putrajaya to Rembau. It included two category 4 and one category 3 climb as the midpoint but the big challenge was a category 3 climb that summited just 7.8km from a downhill run to the finish.

 

It was another very hot day in Malaysia when the riders gathered for the start and all 125 riders that finished yesterday’s stage were present as they headed out for their neutral ride. With the stage offering a breakaway the best chance of success in the race, they were very eager to ride aggressively right from the start.

 

A big break is formed

A big 14-rider group got clear after just a few kilometres of racing and the first kilometres turned into a big battle between that move and the peloton. The bunch had the upper hand and at the 7km mark it was all back together.

 

The lumpy, curvy roads favoured the attackers and this allowed Songezo Jim (Dimension Data), Michael Gogl (Tinkoff), James Oram (ONE), Tom Scully (Drapac), Mirco Maestri (Bardiani), Gong Hyo Suk (KSPO) and Mazuki Amirul (Terengganu) to slip clear after 10km of racing. The peloton slowed down and two kilometres further down the road, the gap had already gone out to a minute.

 

Bonus seconds for Oram

Giuseppe Fonzi (Southeast) managed to bridge the gap and Agung Sahbana (Pegasus) tried a similar project but he was stuck one minute behind the leaders while the peloton allowed the gap to go out to 2.05. He quickly decided to sit up though.

 

There was no good cooperation in the break which had seen their advantage drop to 1.45 after 22km of racing. It hovered between 1.30 and 2.00 for several kilometres while Oram beat Gong, Maestri and Scully in the first intermediate sprint.

 

Oram waits for the peloton

Astana took control of the peloton and kept the gap at two minutes at the end of the first hour duting which 41km had been covered. The Kazakh team couldn’t allow Oram to get too much of an advantage as he was only 1.02 behind in the overall standings.

 

Oram also won the second intermediate sprint ahead of Gong, Amirul and Maestri before his companions persuaded him to drop back to the peloton. That allowed the break to increase their advantage as they tackled the first climbs where Gong won the first KOM sprint ahead of Jim and Fonzi and Gogl won the second one ahead of Jim and Gong and Maestri.

 

The break splits up

After 60km of racing, the gap had gone out to 2.50 but now Unitedhealthcare decided that it was time to kick into action. The American team started to chase hard, reducing the gap to 2.11 at the 65km mark and to 1.05 just 8km later.

 

The gap dropped to less than a minute and when it was down to 25 seconds, only Maestri and Gong insisted, keeping a 15-second advantage for a little while. Unitedhealthcare remained under control but slowed down as they hit the third climb and the two escapees managed to push the advantage out to 50 seconds.

 

Several riders bridge across

Julen Amezqueta (Southeast) took off on the climb before Adrien Niyonshuti (Dimension Data) launched a counterattack. He was followed by Gogl and Tanner Putt (Unitedhealthcare) and that trio joined forces with Amezqueta to form a chase quartet while the peloton slowed further down.

 

Gong led Maestri over the top of the climb while Amezqueta and Putt were first from the chase group. The junction was made after the summit and the six leaders headed down the descent with an advantage of 1.15.

 

Putt takes off

Astana again took control of the peloton and kept the gap at 1.40 when Amezqueta beat Niyonshuti, Gong and Putt in the final intermediate sprint with 55km to go. There was no good cooperation in the breakaway though and so Putt attacked in a solo move.

 

With 36km to go, Putt had put 1.12 into Maestri and Gong who had dropped Amezqueta, Gogl and Niyonshuti that were 28 seconds further back. The peloton was led by Dias Omirzakov and Arman Kamyshev from Astana, 2.35 behind the leader.

 

With 17km to go, Putt still had an advantage of 1.10 over his chasers while the peloton had picked up the rest of the break and was 2 minutes behind. It was now ONE, Skydive and Tinkoff leading the chase and they quickly caught the chasers. Moments later they hit the climb where the final action unfolded.

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