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"With 200m to go, I passed in a very small gap between two other riders but a bit of luck is always needed for winning a bunch sprint. To reach 21 victories at Le Tour de Langkawi is really amazing."

Photo: Le Tour de Langkawi 2016

ANDREA GUARDINI

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ASTANA - PREMIER TECH

TEAM PROFILE
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JURAJ SAGAN

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LAURENS DE VREESE

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MICHAEL KOLAR

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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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TOUR DE LANGKAWI

RACE PROFILE
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01.03.2016 @ 17:38 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Andrea Guardini (Astana) confirmed his status as the fastest rider in the Tour de Langkawi by increasing his tally of stage wins to 21 on the penultimate stage of the race. After a fast stage where Dimension Data had been put under pressure, he held off Jakub Mareczko (Southeast) and Andrea Palini (Skydive) in a photo finish while Reinardt van Rensburg (Dimension Data) finished fifth and defended his overall lead.

 

We have gathered several reactions.

 

Andrea Guardini: I needed some luck to win this sprint

“At the start with the climb, there was a big fight to take the sprint after for [time bonus],” Guardini said after his victory. “After what happened yesterday, it is normal that Lopez is a bit angry, but there’s nothing else we can do. It’s cycling. He is a really strong rider on the climbs. He tried. Anyway, we could not take the bonification.

 

“Astana had such a good tactic today with a strong rider [De Vreese] in the breakaway. Nobody wanted to pull strongly in the finale but it turned out to being a bunch sprint and it was a very good one for me. With 200m to go, I passed in a very small gap between two other riders but a bit of luck is always needed for winning a bunch sprint. To reach 21 victories at Le Tour de Langkawi is really amazing. It’s never simple to win.”

 

“We played perfect tactics and I could play my cards in the sprint. I did a really good sprint on Jakub [Mareczko’s] wheel. He maybe started his sprint too early because it was so fast.”

 

Strong Laurens De Vreese nearly denies the sprinters in Langkawi

“The goal was to win the stage again – maybe with me maybe, with Andrea, it does not matter as long as the victory is for the team. Therefore I stayed in the breakaway during the whole day and I think it was a perfect tactic. In the final Andrea won and I’m very happy,” said Laurens De Vreese.

 

The Belgian of the Kazakh team spent his day riding more than 180km in front of the main group. He went in his first breakaway less than 20k, after the start and was caught by the group with only 3 km to go.

 

“I’m very proud to ride for the team, every time I’m trying to do the maximum. I think this stage was also a good training for me before the upcoming classic races in Belgium,” added De Vreese.

 

Van Rensburg: It feels much better to have the jersey now

The 7th stage was the longest stage of this year’s Tour de Langkawi at 202km and certainly the toughest for Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka. With Janse van Rensburg only leading the general classification by 11 seconds from Daniel Jaramillo (United Healthcare) and 12 seconds from Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana), the African Team were attacked from the gun this morning.

 

As the gap to the trio grew to just over 5 minutes, there was a general regrouping of the peloton. 2 riders from the Chinese Hengxiang team would then bridge to the 3 leaders with 70km still left to race and De Vreese, just 2 minutes behind Janse van Rensburg on GC, was now becoming a real threat to Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka. The African Team would up the pace in the peloton, and slowly began to chip away at the lead of the escapees.

Songezo Jim, Johann van Zyl, Adrien Niyonshuti, Nicolas Dougall and Jaco Venter were working like real troopers at the head of the peloton. When the race hit the 30km to go point, the break was still 3'40" up the road. The African Team kept a consistently high work rate going and by 10km to go, the gap was just 44 seconds. It was only at this point that some assistance was offered by rival teams in setting the pace, as a sprint finish was now sure to unfold.

 

Venter did another great job to pilot Janse van Rensburg to just inside of 1km to go, when the sprint then opened up. Gaurdini sprinted to victory for the 21st time at the Tour de Langkawi while Janse van Rensburg crossed the line in 5th place. The result ensured the South African would keep the overall race leader’s yellow jersey, with just tomorrow's final 119km stage left to race.

 

”Johann and Songezo were superstars today, controlling the break with almost no help from the other teams during the stage,” he said. “The rest of the team did a perfect job to keep me safe and in position to be able to deliver a 5th place result at the finish. There is one more stage to go, so we will have to be on top of our game tomorrow. 

 

“I didn’t feel the pressure when De Vreese was at the front. I even told my team-mates to slow down sometimes. We didn’t get a lot of help. We also didn’t really want to close the gap. Now we’re just with one stage to go. Anything can still happen because a lot of guys still want to do something but I definitely feel happier today with the work done by my team than yesterday because of the way I took the lead.

 

“I think the team showed today how strong they are. After defending it, I think it feels a little bit better to have it on my shoulders now.

 

“The team was really strong. I was all the time saying to them, ‘Slow down, slow down’ so the sprinters’ teams should come up and help us close the gap. There was not a lot of help but the team was really strong.”

 

“One more stage to go … but anything can happen. There are still a lot of guys trying to do something on the classification. On Wednesday will have to have to be about concentration and teamwork again.”

 

Sports director Jens Zemke added:
 

“Today it was clear to us from early on that today would not be an easy day for us after yesterday. We had a tough climb after 29km where a number of climbers and GC riders attacked. There was a leading group of 6 riders and we were behind in a group of 25 riders. I told the boys to wait for the bunch, so we slowed down and the bunch came together. We then had all 6 of our boys to chase for the whole day. They spent nearly 200km riding in the front, right up until the very late final when they caught the last rider with 5km to go. Reinardt gave the sprint a go, he did not have all the man power left to perform a leadout but he still came 5th and keeps the jersey, which was the main objective for the day. The team did really, really well today. ”

 

Aggressive Tinkoff team chase stage win with Sagan and Kolar in Langkawi

Stage 7 of the Tour de Langkawi was the longest of the race and presented the second to last chance of a stage win for Tinkoff. After racing on the front foot yesterday, the Tinkoff jerseys were again on the offensive with Juraj Sagan pushing hard for a breakaway early in the day, before Michael Kolar raced to yet another top 10 in the bunch finish.

 

After a debrief and returning to the team hotel, Sport Director Jan Valach gave his thoughts on the stage: “It was a long day out there today, not quite as hot as yesterday but still over 35 degrees. Our goal for today was to go for the sprint with Michael as it was likely to come down to another bunch finish, but also to get in the breakaway.”

 

It was yesterday’s runner-up, Juraj Sagan, who was the most active early in the stage, pushing hard to force the day’s break to go clear. After getting away in a small group, Sagan was caught by a chasing group as the race split on the first climb of the day, a short, steep rise after 25km. Tinkoff was represented in this front group of around 25 riders with four riders, as Jesper Hansen, Michael Kolar, and Evgeny Petrov joined Sagan.

 

“Juraj pushed on again after the race split on the first climb and got away with five others but, like yesterday, there were GC guys there so the gap never went over two minutes. With little cohesion in the break, he sat up after 70km and returned to the bunch, while a small split pressed on ahead. From here we set about sticking together as a team and getting ready for the sprint at the end.

 

“With 15km to go the gap was just one minute and at 7km to go we hit the front to close the gap and be positioned for the sprint. It was looking good until there was a crash on the right hand side coming into the finish. Our guys were out of the way on the left but it led to Michael being blocked in, and as the sprint opened up he couldn’t get free to go for it.”

 

Michael Kolar came across the line in 10th place, and despite not being the result the guys were after it was another strong team display and the seventh top 10 from seven stages, and Kolar’s fourth.

 

Valach continued: “We showed once again today that we’re doing everything and the guys are giving it their all, so I’m happy with the result and the young guys are getting more experience. Tomorrow’s the last day and again we’ll push for a stage win and if possible some more time bonuses with Jesper Hansen.”

 

Crash takes Matthew Goss out of contention in Langkawi sprint

A nasty crash upset the final sprint for ONE Pro Cycling but George Harper retained his 4th position going into the final stage of the Tour.

 

 

During the opening kilometres the course today saw one very steep climb with a mountain to pass followed by a long flat run in that looked likely to produce a bunch sprint.  George Harper was keeping a close eye on his GC rivals to make sure no one slipped away before the first intermediate sprint which held vital bonus seconds. It was Karol Domagalski however that was involved in the early action going clear with a small group of riders ahead of the climb.

 

The severity of the climb split the peloton and 25 riders including George Harper broke from the main group to join the leaders. Such a large group was never going to work together efficiently and a large majority went back to the peloton leaving six riders in the breakaway. Karol Domagalski remained present for ONE Pro Cycling and was active at the first time bonus point winning the sprint and collecting a vital six seconds. Once Domagalski hit the 120km marker, he made the decision to slip back into the peloton to help the team ride final 80km to the finish.

 

Aiming to deliver Matt Goss to the line, ONE Pro Cycling began to get themselves organised on the run in to the finish. Coming into the final 300m Goss was in the top 10 and ready to open up the sprint when a nasty crash in front ruined his chances, he managed to stay upright but the same can’t be said for the two riders in front who hit the road hard.

 

All the team crossed the line safely with George Harper retaining a fantastic 4th position on the GC.

 

Malaysian on the verge of big result in Langkawi

Adiq Husainie Othman of Terengganu is also close to becoming the first Malaysian to win the best Asian competition.

 

“Our sprinters Harrif [Saleh] and Anuar [Manan] are getting better and better every day”, the Dungun-born rider said. “Harrif was fifth yesterday, fourth today, hopefully we’ll get a place on the podium tomorrow. It’s going to be fast, fast and fast in Melaka. I hope to avoid any mechanical and take the white jersey home.”

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