Mar 1, 2013
TWO IN A ROW FOR COQUARD
KUALA BERANG, Friday 1 March 2013 - Team Europcar's Bryan Coquard again proved too strong as he bagged his second consecutive victory in Stage 9 of Le Tour de Langkawi 2013 (LTdL) from Pasir Puteh to Kuala Berang today.
The 20-year old once again found space to launch an explosive sprint to beat Vini Fantini-Selle Italia's Francesco Chicchi and Orica-GreenEdge's veteran Australian sprinter Allan Davis to the finish line of the 123.4km stage in 2 hours 42 minutes 11 seconds.
"To achieve my first win in this race, especially with such a strong field was difficult. But when I found my rhythm, it became easier and today's win has made me very happy," said Coquard.
"My lead-out man Kevin Reza managed to put me on the wheel of Davis with 300m to go, when Greame Brown (Blanco) was in front. After that I found space and managed to sprint to overtake them and all the way to the finish,
"As you can see it is very competitive. Each day the top finishers are not the same ones, so the field has many strong sprinters. But today my team managed to do again what they did yesterday and we won again," added Coquard, winner of the silver medal in the Omnium at the Olympic Games in London last year.
Winner of Stage 4, Chicchi again failed to outdo the young Frenchman Coquard after he was beaten to the line at the final leap when the teams tactical plans went astray with his leadout man Michele Merlo involved in a crash in the final kilometre.
"Merlo had an accident and I had to sprint on my own and I started my sprint in around 25th position, but it was too late because at that point Coquard was too far ahead," said Chicchi, the 2002 under-23 world champion.
Today's stage began as usual with many attacks from the peloton which was then controlled by Vini Fantini, allowing Chicchi to win the first intermediate sprint to close the gap on the points classification leader Andrea Guardini of Astana.
The peloton increased its speed to catch the final breakaway pair of Liu Yilin of Hengxiang and Endra Wijaya of Indonesia, who made their escapoe 35km into the stage and opened up a gap of around 2 minutes before being caught with 20km to go.
Julian Arredondo of Team Nippo-De Rosa maintained his overall lead with a 1 minute and 15 seconds advantage over Orica-GreenEdge's Pieter Weening with the final stage tomorrow remaining.
The challenge for the blue jersey will continue in the final stage tomorrow with Chicchi closing the gap to Guardini to just five points. Guardini has 86 points and Chicchi 81.
Hengxiang's Wang Meiyin confirmed his red jersey victory after the end of the mounbtains competition yesterday.. He repeats his mountains classification victory in the Tour of Qinghai Lake last year.
Meiyin also remains the leader of the Asian riders' classification, which will be confirmed at the end of tomorrow's stage.
South Afirca's MTN-Qhubeka's lead in the teams classification looks unlikely to be threatened in the final stage tomorrow with a nine minutes advantage over second placed Tabriz Petrochemical of Iran.
Once again the locals bit the dust with Anuar Manan (Synergy-Baku Cycling Project) again falling short of his targeted podium spot when he finished 7th and again the best Malaysian finisher.
"I was targeting to win this stage and my teammates worked well for me. But unfortunately in the final kilometre there was a crash in front of me which I had to avoidm which disrupted my momentum. I will try again tomorrow," said Anuar, 26.
Meanwhile, the Malaysian national team's young LTdL debutante Mohd Zulhilmie Afif Ahmad Zamri managed 16th in the stage and admitted he had learned a lot from his first appearance in the race thus far.
"I am getting more used to this level of racing. I used the earlier stages to get myself accustomed to the speed and I watched the professionals closely. I also watched how Anuar Manan competed with them. Today I felt comfortable to bring myself to the front and try my luck in the bunch sprint," said Mohd Zulhilmie, 21.
Stage 10 of LTdL 2013 tomorrow involves a 114.8km route from Tasik Kenyir to Kuala Terengganu with three intermediate sprints, one at Padang Air and two more across the finish line as the peloton does two loops around Kuala Terengganu before the finish.
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).