|Flag off by Raja Muda Perlis Tuanku Syed Faizuddin Putra Jamalullail|
|Theo takes the win!|
KULIM, Thursday - Blanco Pro Cycling Team's Theo Bos swept the opening victory in the 18th edition of Le Tour de Langkawi (LTdL) today almost unchallenged in the bunch sprint finish.
That victory, 29-year old Bos' second in two weeks, gave him both the Visit Terengganu Year 2013 yellow jersey as the overall leader and the Proton blue jersey as the leader of the points classification.
Backed by a strong team that included the former LTdL record stage winner Greame Brown, Bos easily saw off the challenge of young French sprinter Bryan Coquard of Team Europcar and Italy's Andrea Guardini of the Astana Pro Team, the current LTdL stage win record holder at the end of the 162.7 kilometre stage that ended in 4 hours and 17 seconds.
China's Wang Meiyin of the Hengxiang Cycling Team also grabbed some atention when his early effort in a breakway from kilometre zero with Japan's Shinichi Fukushima of Team Nippo and Ho Junrong of OCBC Singapore saw him win all three intermediate sprints and the category 4 KOM at Bukit Selambau to take the Malaysia Airlines white Asian riders' jersey as well as the Genting red jersey as the mountains classification leader.
The end result of the stage confirmed pre-race speculations as Bos, winner of Stage Two in the Tour of Algarve in Portugal last week, produced an explosive sprint to finish off the opposition after the peloton had caught up with the three breakway riders 20 kilometres from the finish.
"It was quite easy becausde my teammates controlled the tempo at the front which made it difficult for the other teams to find a good position. My teammate Brown has a lot of experience here, so that also helped me," said Bos.
"But I realise that the race after this will not always be easy. With our team in good condition, I hope to register more victories in the coming stages."
Meiyin, who saw his hopes of a surprise victory diminish when the peloton caught up after they passed Kuala Ketil, ssaid he had entered the race hoping to make an impact.
"I wanted to show my ability in this race and try to win something," said Meiyin, who has raced in Malaysia with the Marco Polo team prior to this.
"I realised that this is a race with a very high level and it requires a lot more for me to win. But I am still eager to prove something and with the performance in the stage, I'm happy that I have come up with good form after the winter in China," said Meiyin.
Synergy-Baku Cycling Project's Anuar Manan emerged as the best Malaysian rider on the day by finishing seventh in the stage.
"When Blanco were at the front, there was a split in the front of the peloton and I was left behind, so my lead-out man Rico Rogers had to work extra hard to pull me back to the front. After that I tried to match the guys at the front, but they were just too fast," said Anuar.
The second stage of LTdL covers 117km from Serdang to Kuala Kangsar today, where the peloton has toalso negotiate a tough category 2 climb up Bukit Sumpitan.
The LTdL 2013, which carries the slogan "The Heat is On", will officially begin in Kangar on February 21 and the race comprises 10 stages, covering 1469.7 kilometres.
The race is sanctioned by the International Cycling Union (UCI) as a 2.HC (hors category) race on the UCI Asia Tour calendar, organised by the Ministry of Youth and Sports, via the National Sports Council (NSC) in association with the Malaysian National Cycling Federation (MNCF).