Feb 24, 2012


KUALA LUMPUR - With no fewer than six former winners of Le Tour de Langkawi taking part in this year’s race, the stage is set for a massive battle over the ten stages of the event, starting tomorrow.

The 2003 winner Tom Danielson is riding the race for the third time in his career and is determined to once again fight for the yellow jersey. He will square up against other past victors Freddy Gonzalez (2004, now Azad University Cross team), Anthony Charteau (2007, Europcar), plus the Androni Venezuela trio of Jose Serpa, Jose Rujano and Yonnatha Monsalve, who triumphed in the past three years.

Danielson was eighth in last year’s Tour de France, riding superbly in his debut in the race, and is determined to step up a level this season. He wants to aim for a podium finish in the Tour and, as part of that push for higher results, also wants to win stage races in the run-up to the July event.

As he explained, victory in the Tour de Langkawi would be very significant for him. “Malaysia is a very special place to me and when I was sitting down with my director sportif last year, Jonathan Vaughters, speaking about my race schedule, I heard that we had an opportunity to do the Tour de Langkawi,” he said. “I immediately raised my hand and said, ‘let's go to that race, I really, really want to do to that race.’ For me this race is so so special because I really started my career here. It got me noticed on the European scene, got me to Europe on Fassa Bortolo and I am very, very thankful to the event as a result.”

One of those who spoke to the press at the specially-convened outdoor conference after the gitzy team presentation was Team Astana's Alexandre Vinokourouv. Unlike several of those who spoke to the press, he hasn’t won the race in the past. However it is also of significance to him and, if his fitness is sufficient after a near-career ending crash last July, he’ll fight for results between now and Sunday March 4th.

“I'm happy to come back to the country where everything started for me,” the quiet-spoken Kazakhstan rider said. “This was the first race I started as a first year professional back in 1997, and so my career started from here.

“It was hot today, but the presentation here went very well and I am looking forward to racing again, and to riding the time trial tomorrow. This is my first stage race since I had a bad crash in the Tour de France last year.”

Another who is starting in an ambitious frame of mind is the Malaysian hero Anuar Manan. Two years ago he became the first rider from the country to win a stage in the race, and also took the points jersey for most consistent sprinter.

He’s now with the new Chinese Pro Continental outfit Champion System, and with a leadout team fully committed to him for the flat stages, will be ideally positioned to take on other strong sprinters such as Andrea Guardini.

“I am feeling good about this year,” he said, smiling. “I had good preparation and I have good legs for Langkawi. This year I alas have good team-mates and I think I have no problem to win a stage this year. I will try to get the green jersey again.”

Danielson is aiming for a different colour, that of yellow, but is reluctant to predict that he’ll be the one to succeed. He’s determined to take things day by day rather than fixate about what will happen at the end of the race; if he rides well and things fall into place, he’ll be number one.

“Win is a big word,” he answered, when asked if he could take the overall honours. “I really can't quantify winning, I don't know what that means yet. There is going to be a lot of obstacles, a lot of great competition, a lot of great battles. I think I can ride well here, and we will see what well means at the end of the race.”

Tomorrow’s opening stage is a 20.3 kilometre time trial in Putrajaya, which will immediately set out who will be the riders in contention. Danielson and his team-mate Dave Zabriskie should be right in the thick of the battle, while the other former race winners may find themselves losing time due to their preference for climbs rather than time trials.

This should set things up for an exciting battle on Genting Highlands, the race’s toughest finish.

After tomorrow, there will be stage finishes in Melaka, Parit Sulong, Muar, Pandan Indah, Genting Highlands, Kuantan, Chukai, and two in Kuala Terengganu. LTdL 2012 is organised by the National Sports Council as a mark of continuity to the organisation of the Ministry of Youth and Sports in 2010 and 2011 in collaboration with the Malaysian National Cycling Federation. The race maintains a 2.HC (Hors Classe) status and is recognised and sanctioned by the UCI and UCI Asia Tour.

The 10 day race begins on February 24 with Individual time trial along a 20.3 km course in Putrajaya to kick off the race; followed by stage 2 Putrajaya - Melaka (151.0km); Stage 3 Ayer Keroh - Parit Sulong (187.6km); Batu Pahat - Muar (169.4km); Ayer Keroh - Pandan Indah (190km); Proton Shah Alam - Genting Highlands (108km); Bentong - Kuantan (205.8km); Pekan - Chukai (100.8km); Kemasik - Kuala Terengganu (165.7km) dan Tasik Kenyir - Kuala Terengganu (114.8km).

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