KUALA LUMPUR - Two positive early season outcomes in South America have boosted the confidence within one of Le Tour de Langkawi's (LTdL) ever-present teams Androni-Venezuela, who will start the 20th edition of the race in Langkawi from March 8 to 15.
Charismatic Italian manager Gianni Savio said the invitation to compete in LTdL has always been appreciated by the team, who have not missed an edition since 1999 when the team was then called Aguardiente-Selle Italia.
"I am happy to be back again with the team and we honour this invitation as we have our own tradition in Le Tour de Langkawi. We have won the overall title six times through Hernan Dario Munoz, Fredy Gonzalez and Jose Serpa of Colombia, Ruslan Ivanov of Moldova and Yonathan Monsalve of Venezuela," said Savio.
"With good early season preparations through our participation in the Vuelta a Tachira in Venezuela and the Vuelta San Luis in Argentina, where we won a stage and were on the podium five times, we are on the right track to achieve success in LTdL."
Androni, who have received an injection of a number of new sponsors for this new season, will this time parade two Italian sprinters Marco Benfatto and Marco Frapporti to bring their challenge in the bunch sprints in the flat stages, and will be hoping for a repeat stage win as was achieved by Dutch sprinter Kenny Van Hummel in Pontian last year.
Without Italian climber Gianfranco Zilioli this time, Savio said, the team will be counting on new signing from Denmark, John Ebsen, who spent the past season racing in Asia with Team CCN, and Italy's Alessio Taliani, who made a promising debut in LTdL last year, finishing 23rd overall, along with Vuelta Tachira stage winner Jackson Rodriguez of Venezuela, who is a familiar fixture in LTdL.
Rodriguez will have Centroamerica Championships winner Carlos Galves for company as Androni aim for their record seventh overall title in LTdL.
LTdL 2015 chief executive officer Datuk Malik Mydin said the presence of Androni, who have already won 24 stages of LTdL, which is the second highest in the race's history, is also an honour for the organisers.
"Since they were known as Aguardiente, Colombia-Selle Italia, Diquigiovani and now Androni-Venezuela, the presence of this team has always been keenly anticipated by fans, as they always show their power in the climbing stages," said Datuk Malik.
"I am sure they will select a strong team, which will be hard to beat even for the four UCI Pro Teams who will be present."
ANDRONI-VENEZUELA'S SQUAD FOR LE TOUR de LANGKAWI 2015:
Marco BENFATTO (ITA); Marco FRAPPORTI (ITA); John EBSEN (DEN); Alessio TALIANI (ITA); Jackson RODRIGUEZ (VEN); Carlos GALVIS (VEN)
Organised by Human Voyage Sdn Bhd, the 20th edition of Le Tour de Langkawi (LTdL) from 8 to 15 March, 2015 is set to cover more than 1,000km over 8 stages, the UCI 2.HC (hors category) race featuring again as one of the biggest events on the UCI Asia Tour calendar.