KUALA LUMPUR - After a flying start marked by second places in stages of the Dubai Tour and the Tour of Qatar, Italy’s sprinter ace Andrea Guardini of Astana looks likely to become the first rider to win the points classification at Le Tour de Langkawi three times. He already holds the record of fourteen stage victories. This will be his fifth straight participation to Malaysia’s premier cycling race. He took the blue jersey home on his debut in 2011 and the following year as well.
This year, the Sprint Jersey will be sponsored by the Maju Group. Under the stewardship of the Group Executive Chairman, Tan Sri Abu Sahid Mohamed, the Maju Group is one of the country’s largest and most established diversified conglomerates in Malaysia with signature projects such as Terminal Bersepadu Selatan at Bandar Tasik Selatan (Malaysia’s premier state-of-the-art integrated transportation terminal) and Maju Expressway (“The Gateway to the Nation” that links KLIA and Putrajaya to Kuala Lumpur), contributing to the nation growth.
“We are extremely delighted as Le Tour De Langkawi emerge prominently to the 20th edition, placing Malaysia on the world sporting stage. This is truly a historical milestone for the Maju Group as a supporting partner to be part of this momentous occasion”, said Maju Group CEO, Ir. Seth Lim Sow Wu.
CEO of the 2015 Le Tour de Langkawi Datuk Malik Mydin expressed his gratitude to the Maju Group for supporting the 20th edition. “We are indeed honored to have Maju Group joining our LTdL family, their contribution will indeed help ensure the success of the race, the Maju Group is also the sponsor of the BLUE points Jersey competition.”
Only two other riders have won the points classification on two occasions: Canada’s Gordon Fraser (in 2000 and 2004) and Australian LTdL legend Graeme Brown (in 2003 and 2005).
“Guardini seems to be in a great shape in this early part of the season”, noted Datuk Malik. “But he’s going to face a hard task with the quality of the sprinters’ field, especially the younger ones: Caleb Ewan from Australia and Jakub Mareczko, also from Italy. They’re not only fast but their teams [Orica-GreenEdge and Southeast respectively] have clearly built excellent lead out trains.”
Other sprinters in contention from March 8 to 15 will be Alessandro Petacchi (Southeast), Yauheni Hutarovitch (Bretagne-Séché Environnement), Chris Sutton (Sky), Adam Blythe (Orica-GreenEdge), Leonardo Duque (Team Colombia), Ahmet Örken (Torku), Marco Benfatto (Androni-Venezuela), Paolo Simion (Bardiani CSF), Michal Kolar (Tinkoff-Saxo), Ken Hanson (Unitedhealthcare), Youcef Reguigui (MTN-Qhubeka), Park Sung Baek (KSPO) and Harrif Salleh (Terengganu).
However, the points classification isn’t only about winning bunch sprints. “It requires consistency”, explained Datuk Malik, a former cyclist himself. “Every day, there are points up for grabs, three times a day at intermediate sprints and once on the finishing line. Riders can also score points in a solo effort but most of the times at Le Tour de Langkawi it’s a sprinters’ affair.”
As the twentieth edition is around the corner, history books reveal that only two non-sprinters have won the competition: Italian attacker and domestique “Niki” Loda riding for MG-Technogym at the service of Luca Scinto in 1997 and “silver fox” Graeme Miller from New Zealand whose never-give-up attitude earned him the jersey in 1999 at the age of 39. Eventual world champion in 2006 and 2007 Paolo Bettini who won the competition in 2001 was also not a pure sprinter but he had won two bunch sprints, one of them on the penultimate day after the Genting Highlands stage where most of the sprinters, including green jersey wearer Jans Koerts from Mercury, got eliminated for finishing beyond the time cut.
In 2010, the colour of the points jersey became blue and was the only one won by an Asian rider up to date. That was the pinnacle of Anuar Manan’s career when the Terengganu sprinter ace then riding for Korean team Geumsan Ginseng also became the first Malaysian to win a stage at Le Tour de Langkawi in Port-Dickson. Malaysian cycling fans would love to see another local going on stage for the same reason.
Previous winners of the points classification at Le Tour de Langkawi:
1996 : Jay Sweet (AUS)
1997 : Nicola Loda (ITA)
1998 : Fred Rodriguez (USA)
1999 : Graeme Miller (N.-Z.)
2000 : Gordon Fraser (CAN)
2001 : Paolo Bettini (ITA)
2002 : Robert Hunter (RSA)
2003 : Graeme Brown (AUS)
2004 : Gordon Fraser (CAN)
2005 : Graeme Brown (AUS)
2006 : Steffen Radochla (GER)
2007 : Alberto Loddo (ITA)
2008 : Aurélien Clerc (SUI)
2009 : Mattia Gavazzi (ITA)
2010 : Anuar Manan (MAL)
2011 : Andrea Guardini (ITA)
2012 : Andrea Guardini (ITA)
2013 : Francesco Chicchi (ITA)
2014 : Aidis Kruopis (LIT)