SHAH ALAM - 22 teams of six riders each will compose the field of the 21st Le Tour de Langkawi due to kick off in Kangar on February 24 and come to a conclusion in historical Melaka on March 2nd.
Defending champions Dimension Data lead the start list featuring newly crowned South African road race national champion Jaco Venter who is a natural candidate to succeed to Algeria’s Youcef Reguigui in the record book of Asia’s premier cycling event.
A regular participant to LTdL since 2012, Asia’s only World Tour team Astana eyes its first overall triumph with Colombia’s Miguel Angel Lopez who won the 2014 Tour de l’Avenir and the queen stage of this year’s Tour de San Luis ahead of the Quintana brothers (Nairo and Dayer) as well as Tour de France stars Rafal Majka and Vincenzo Nibali in January at the age of only 21.
Other GC contenders list includes former Vuelta a España leader and Tour de France top 10 finisher Janez Brajkovic from Slovenia. He ended the 2015 season strongly with fourth overall at the Abu Dhabi Tour. He’ll form an interesting duo with Colombia’s Daniel Jaramillo under the banner of Unitedhealthcare. Tinkoff’s Jesper Hansen who won the Tour of Norway last year, the 2015 Jelajah Malaysia overall winner Francisco Mancebo of Skydive Dubai, Danish skinny climber John Ebsen now racing for One Pro Cycling, Bardiani-CSF’s Luca Chirico from Italy and Spain’s Antonio Piedra now at the helm of Brazilian outfit Funvic-Soul-Carrefour after winning the legendary stage to the Lagos de Covadonga at the 2012 Vuelta a España will be other serious candidates to watch, especially on stage 4 to the Cameron Highlands.
With already 18 stage wins under his belt at Le Tour de Langkawi, Italy’s Andrea Guardini of Astana will be the top sprinter once again. However, he’ll be under threat by his up and coming compatriot Jakub Mareczko from Southeast in a pack full of fast men including the 2011 Milan-Sanremo winner Matt Goss (One Pro Cycling), LTdL points classification winner in 2013 Francesco Chicchi (Androni), Slovakian duo Erik Baska-Michael Kolar (Tinkoff), Swiss prodigy Dylan Page (Roth), Italy’s Andrea Palini (Skydive Dubai), Nicola Ruffoni and Paolo Simion racing together for Bardiani-CSF, Brenton Jones and Graeme Brown teaming up at Drapac and American John Murphy (Unitedhealthcare) who outsprinted no less than Trek’s Niccolo Bonifazio and last year’s LTdL points classification winner Caleb Ewan to win the last stage of the Herald Sun Tour in Australia earlier this month.
Japan’s Tomohiro Hayakawa will return with Aisan as the defending champion of the Asian classification, a secondary ranking that makes Le Tour de Langkawi special. All eyes will be on Chinese trio Wang Meiyin, Zhao Jingbiao and Ma Guangtong of Hengxiang, last year’s stage 5 winner in Kuantan Seo Joon Yong from Korea (KSPO), local superstar Anuar Manan (Terengganu) who is the only Malaysian to have won a stage at LTdL (in 2010) up to date, and also Indonesian squad Pegasus who won the overall teams classification last year.
“The Asian teams classification will be contested by eleven teams this year, which is more than ever”, said the CEO of Le Tour de Langkawi Emir Abdul Jalal. “During our selection process we’ve put emphasis on inviting a maximum of truly Asian teams from diverse countries who deserve by their results on the Asia Tour to get a chance to challenge the top teams we’ve attracted from all over the world: Europe of course but also North and South America, Africa and Oceania. We’ve got a very well balanced field. There’s plenty of room for riders to express their talents.”