If yesterday saw him equal the record of nine stage wins in the Tour de Langkawi, today was the moment when Andrea Guardini moved clear of the rider who previously set that mark, Graeme Brown. The Italian sprinter was quickest in the big gallop into Kuala Terengganu, getting the better of Matteo Pelucchi (Team Europcar), Raymond Kreder (Garmin Barracuda), Jacobe Keough (UnitedHealthcare) and others.
The sprint was conducted by a smaller group than usual due to a big pileup inside the final three kilometres. Many riders were delayed, including race leader Jose Serpa (Androni Giocattoli – Venezuala), but a UCI rule pertaining to such incidents saw those riders given the same time as the winner Guardini.
“The Tour de Langkawi is very special to me as it was here where I took the first wins in my professional career,” said Guardini after the finish. “Because of that, it is great to get the record of ten stage wins. I thank my team for the perfect lead out for the stage today.”
Serpa was fortunate that the big crash happened when it did and not earlier; had it been outside the three kilometre mark, he would have lost time to some riders. That said, his main rivals Jose Rujano (Androni Giocattoli – Venezuala) and Victor Nino Corridor (Azad University) were also in the delayed group, and so the situation would not have been too dangerous.
A bigger moment of panic came earlier in the stage when the fourth-placed rider Alexandr Dyachenko (Astana) got clear in a break. The move was closed down by the bunch, but it was the biggest move by one of Serpa’s challengers since the Genting Highland stage.
Afterwards, Dyachenko said that he was thinking more of the points classification and his team-mate Valentin Iglinskiy’s attempts to beat Guardini there.
“I just tried to help the team and to help Valentin to break away,” he said. “This stage is meant for sprinting that is why it’s very difficult to take the yellow jersey. Tomorrow’s stage also very easy for sprinting because it is short and flat. That is why I will help the team sprinter, Valentin.”
However Iglinskiy suffered a setback today in that Guardini re-took the blue jersey of points leader. The two ended the day locked on points, but the Italian’s better stage placings gave him the edge. He recouped the points he was behind by finishing one place ahead of Iglinskiy in the first intermediate sprint, then placing first to his sixth in the final gallop.
“Before the first sprint, I saw the opportunity to get some points,” he said. “Without tiring my team, I got one point over Iglinskiy.”
He then didn’t have to sprint in the two remaining intermediate gallops as four riders broke clear and soaked up those points. They were Garmin Barracuda’s Nathan Haas, David McCann (RTS Racing Team), former race winner Anthony Charteau (Europcar) and Reinardt Janse Van Rensburg (MTN Qhubeka). The quartet opened up a gap of over two minutes but were eventually reeled in with approximately four kilometres to go.
Serpa looking good for second overall victory:
Even though it is very unlikely that he will lose the race, the 2009 winner Serpa doesn’t want to tempt fate. As a result, he’s not prepared to say he’s the new champion. “We still have to wait until tomorrow to see whether we can win the yellow jersey,” he explained. “We don’t know what will happen but we hope that we have a better opportunity.”
According to his team manager Gianni Savio, the likely victory is down to the sixth stage of the race. In fact, each of his overall triumphs have rotated around a big performance there by his riders.
“For us, it was in Genting when we have the possibility to win,” he said. “We have studied it and had a good strategy in Genting to attack. After Genting, when all stages are flat, we had to protect our yellow jersey winner and we hope to finish tomorrow’s final stage as the overall champions.”
That last stage covers 114.8 kilometres from Tasik Kenyir to Kuala Terenggannu. It is devoid of any categorized climbs and a big gallop is once again the most likely outcome. Guardini will be excited by that, and could further extend his stage winning record.
HOW IT UNFOLDED:
Another overcast day awaited the riders at the start of the penultimate stage of Le Tour de Langkawi, with those clouds turning to heavy rain very soon after the start in Kemasik. Multiple attacks were fired off before the first intermediate sprint in Dungun, 38.9 kilometres after the start, but nothing remained clear for long.
The bunch contested that first sprint together and there Harrif Salleh was first, ahead of Jacobe Keough (UnitedHealthcare). The two riders battling for the points competition, Andrea Guardini (Farnese Vini Selle Italia) and Valentin Iglinskiy (Astana), placed third and fourth there, with the Italian inching closer to taking back the blue jersey.
Repeated attacks followed, with Paolo Locatelli Colnago) and Louis Crosby (New Zealand) getting clear and being joined by Alexandr Dyachenko (Astana) and Thomas Bertolini (Farnese Vini – Selle Italia). However Dyachenko started the day fourth overall and the move was predictably chased down.
Another quartet tried at kilometre 88 and had more success. Garmin Barracuda’s Nathan Haas, David McCann (RTS Racing Team), former race winner Anthony Charteau (Europcar) and Reinardt Janse Van Rensburg (MTN Qhubeka) quickly gained time and built a lead of over two and a half minutes.
McCann was first in the sprint at Kg Pela (km 99.6), crossing the prime line ahead of Van Rensburg, Charteau and Haas, after which the breakaway continued and had clocked up an average speed of 51 kilometres per hour in two hours of racing.
The Irishman was again first to the line at Kuala Berang (km 118.7), with Charteau, Van Rensburg and Haas second third, and fourth. The finish was just over 45 kilometres away at that point and this prompted the peloton – specifically, the Drapac Cycling team – to chase.
With 40 kilometres left, the gap was down to one minute 29 seconds, and this fell by 22 seconds over the next ten kilometres.
The gap continued to fall and was just twelve seconds with seven kilometres remaining. Haas tried to jump clear after that point but everything came back together. A massive bunch sprint looked possible, but a big crash inside the final three kilometres meant that a much smaller group sprinted it out for the victory.
Raymond Kreder (Garmin Barracuda) preempted Guardini’s jump, hitting out early, but the Italian was too strong and came through to take win number five at this year’s race, and ten in all.