KUALA LUMPUR - The hot favorites for the overall individual and teams classifications of the 20th Le Tour de Langkawi this year are MTN-Qhubeka. The first ever African trade team invited to the Tour de France has selected riders from their continent only to take part for the fifth consecutive time. The Malaysian event has remained close to the heart of their principal Douglas Ryder who was the King of the Mountains in 1998.
With newly crowned South African champion Jacques Janse van Rensburg and their Eritrean trio formed of Merhawi Kudus, Daniel Teklehaimanot and Natnael Berhane, they look like having the most qualified team for GC, possibly stronger than the World Team in contention this time around.
Kudus was an amazing runner up at LTdL last year at the age of 20 only. Since then, he has completed his first Grand Tour, the Vuelta, in September, and he resumed racing on a high note again in 2015 with winning the African championship for team time trial over South Africa and finishing 7th of stage 3 at the Tour of Andalucia not far behind the world’s best climbers Alberto Contador and Chris Froome.
Janse van Rensburg has delivered a dream result by finishing 5th overall at the Tour of Oman behind Tour de France stars Rafael Valls, Tejay van Garderen, Alejandro Valverde and Rafal Majka. “It went even better for me as I was hoping to approach the top”, he said. “With all those teams from the World Tour in contention, it was great to be the first rider from Pro Continental level so close to them on GC.”
“I was actually riding the Tour of Oman in preparation for Le Tour de Langkawi, a race that I’ve always liked”, added Janse van Rensburg who already took part on four occasions and always performed well in the overall ranking: 6th in 2009, 20th in 2012, 14th in 2013 and 6th again in 2014. “It’s a very well organized race with nice hills. The route is never too hard with only one or two days of climbing. I’m really happy with what the course offers this year: start in Langkawi, finish in Kuala Lumpur and Genting Highlands on the second last day rather than at the beginning of the event. I’m excited to go back to Malaysia.”
“My form is very good”, he continued. “It would be really big if we’d win the race as a team and for me, personally, I’m chasing my first pro win internationally. We’re bringing a team mostly for GC. We don’t have a designated leader because it usually comes down to who is the best on Genting Highlands.”
MTN-Qhubeka’s line up is completed by Algerian sprinter Youcef Reguigui who finished 5th in the bunch gallop of the last stage of the Tour of Qatar. His lead out man will be Nic Dougall from South Africa. “The average age of the team coming to Malaysia is 24 years”, noted the CEO of the 2015 LTdL datuk Abdul Malik Mydin. “It makes it one of the most interesting to follow for the future of globalized cycling. I’m also excited to see them perform on our roads.”
MTN-QHUBEKA FOR LE TOUR de LANGKAWI 2015 :
Merhawi KUDUS (Eri), Natnael BERHANE (Eri), Daniel TEKLEHAIMANOT (Eri), Nicolas DOUGALL (RSA), Youcef REGUIGUI (Alg) and Jacques JANSE VAN RENSBURG (RSA)