Feb 28, 2012


27 FEBRUARY 2012, MUAR - Triumphant on stages two and three, Andrea Guardini clocked up yet another win on the Tour de Langkawi today, further underlining his superb abilities in the final moments. The Farnese Vini – Selle Italia rider was best at the end of the 169.4 kilometre trek from Batu Pahat to Muar, beating Jacobe Keough (United Healthcare), Salleh Hariff (Terengganu Cycling Team) and the rest of the main bunch to the line.

The stage was marked by an extremely rapid finish, with the peloton successfully chasing down the day’s break and catching the final rider from that move, Louis Crosby (New Zealand), with just 75 metres to go.

Guardini got past him at that point, prompting Crosby to sit up in resignation and allowing sixteen others to swoop past.

The Kiwi had gone clear eight kilometres after the start with Rhys Pollock (Drapac Cycling), Kevin Reza (Europcar) and Shinichi Fukushima (Terengganu Cycling), and still had two minutes’ lead with ten kilometres to go.

The gap seemed insurmountable, but Guardini said that he never gave up hope. “With 30 kilometres to go, when the difference was five minutes, nobody believed any more that there would be a bunch sprint today,” he explained. “But we believed we could do it. We calculated that with ten seconds per kilometre, we could catch them, and we respected this time to catch them just in time in the last kilometre.

“We received a big help from the Astana team and Mr. Vinokourov himself, and that is how we managed to get across in the last kilometre. I then opened up my sprint with 300 metres to go.”

Race leader Dave Zabriskie rolled across the line in 70th place, preserving his one minute advantage in the general classification. It was a wearing day for his Garmin Barracuda team, with those riders doing the bulk of the work in chasing the break down. Guardini’s Farnese Vini Selle Italia squad came through later, as did Alexander Vinokourov’s Astana team.

Zabriskie had a solid time advantage over the breakaway riders heading into the stage, with Pollock the best placed, three minutes 18 seconds back. He said that this fact affected the team’s tactics and chasing.

“I think the best-placed guy was three minutes down, so we just had to get it manageable,” he said. “The guys have been doing some great work. It has taken its toll a little bit so it was good to see some other teams get up there and help out.”

Guardini said however that his team-mates might play things a little differently tomorrow due to its harder profile.

“We will have to see how it goes during the stage, and mostly we’ll have to see how my team-mates are going,” he said. “It mostly depends on them as they spent a lot of energy taking me to the win today. It will depend more on them than me if I am up there for the win tomorrow.”

If he is, and if he manages to triumph again, he will equal Graeme Brown’s stage winning-record of nine. At this point, few would bet against him matching or beating that statistic.

Ambitious break goes close:

Today’s stage was marked by an extremely heavy downpour half an hour before the start, but fortunately the rain disappeared before the 128 riders rolled out of Batu Pahat. There was one rider missing; Guardini’s team-mate Rafael Andriato (Farnese Vini – Selle Italia) withdrew due to an arm injury.

This would in theory make things more complicated for Guardini, but he and his team would gamble that the Garmin Barracuda team of race leader Dave Zabriskie would chase to protect the yellow jersey.

The first two riders to try to go clear were Rhys Pollock (Drapac Cycling) and Adiq Hussainie (Champion System). Their move didn’t last long, but a subsequent attack by Pollock, Kevin Reza (Europcar), Shinichi Fukushima (Terengganu Cycling) and Louis Crosby (New Zealand) was more successful and daylight opened up.

The quartet quickly gained time. Having attacked approximately eight kilometres into the stage, they were almost two and a half minutes clear at kilometre thirteen and, coming up to the first intermediate sprint at Simpang Renggam (km 64), they were almost six minutes ahead.

Crosby, Fukushima, Pollock and Reza went over the prime line in that order, and did the same for the second sprint, that of Air Hitam (km 84.5). They completed two hours of racing shortly after that point, with the break averaging 43.3 kilometres per hour for that period.

Crosby was once again best in the third intermediate sprint (Batu Pahat, km 115.5) and – once again – Fukushima, Pollock and Reza were next in line.

The bunch was becoming a little more concerned at the extent of the time gap and the pace picked up behind. The effect was clear; the break’s advantage was down to just under five minutes 33 kilometres from the line, and Farnese Vini – Selle Italia’s appearance at the front of the peloton saw a new urgency being injected into things.

With 25 kilometres remaining, the break was four mintues ten seconds ahead. This fell to three minutes 22 seconds over the next five kilometres, then dropped to two minutes with ten kilometres to go.

The gap still appeared to be sufficient, but the Astana team aided Farnese Vini – Selle Italia in ramping the speed even higher. It became clear to those out front that the bunch was screaming in the road, prompting Crosby to try a lone attack.

The effort was a brave one, but he just missed out on the win. Guardini passed him 75 metres from the line, then several others got by. The Kiwi sat up and faded to 18th, his brave attempt at an end.

His team has been riding aggressively and may opt to try once again on tomorrow’s fifth stage, a more difficult 190 kilometre race from Ayer Keroh to Pandan Indah.

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.

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