Cycling : Jelajah Malaysia Promises A Battle

NST Online > 7/1/2008

The Malaysian team in high spirit for the Jelajah Malaysia 2008 race from Putrajaya to Port Dickson starting today. - Pix: HAIRUL ANUAR ABDUL RAHIM

The Malaysian team in high spirit for the Jelajah Malaysia 2008 race from Putrajaya to Port Dickson starting today. – Pix: HAIRUL ANUAR ABDUL RAHIM

AN untold edition of a battle that has been fought many times before beckons when the Jelajah Malaysia flags off under threatening gloomy skies on a 176.8 kilometre opening stage from Putrajaya to Port Dickson today. 

AN untold edition of a battle that has been fought many times before beckons when the Jelajah Malaysia flags off under threatening gloomy skies on a 176.8 kilometre opening stage from Putrajaya to Port Dickson today.

It will be one battle for the general classification that Iranian Ghader Mizbani knows how to win, but the 32-year old starts this one under a new flag with lieutenants that all speak his language, in the Tabriz Petrochemical continental team, for whom he signed along with long-time assistant Hossein Askari last month.

Having left the Giant Asia Racing Team, which the duo served for five years, Ghader and Hossein joined Tabriz Petrochemical amidst some complications brought about in their registration and it was done at the last minute, two weeks ago to only just beat the deadline for registration of riders with continental teams. That has cost the duo their ticket to Le Tour de Langkawi (LTdL) for the first time in nine years.

Giant Asia didn’t take it sitting down either. They brought back David McCann from American outfit Colavita-Sutter Homes, where the Irishman spent a fairly docile season last year having sent shockwaves around the UCI Asia Tour with an impressive previous season marked by a eighth place finish in the LTdL general classification.

But McCann starts the Jelajah Malaysia with just three teammates in fellow Irishman Paul Griffin, Stefan Loffler from Germany and Australian Jacob Lea, while Tabriz Petrochemical have a power-packed squad with Ghader, Hossein, Tour of Thailand overall winner Ahad Kazemi Sarai, Hossein Jahbanian, Hossein Nateghi and Mehdi Partovi.

“We had some problems with the registration as our federation was not very well organised, so everything came at the last minute. But we’re settled now and can get on with the season, but hope we can start to build more for the 2009 season,” said Ghader.

“Here, we are just starting our season and in Iran right now, it is very cold, so we are going to look at the race one stage at a time.”

It will likely be a battle that the Netherlands-registered Skil-Shimano team feel they have to be part of as well with the presence of promising Yokihiro Doi in their all-Japanese line-up.

The 23-year old will be remembered for his highly impressive overall sixth place finish in LTdL last year but in this race, he is among the four most likely contenders for the overall title, the other being defending champion Mehdi Sohrabi, who has moved from Tabriz Petrochemical to Iran’s other continental team Islamic Azad University.

But looking at the four-man Azad team with seasoned duo Abbas Saedi Tanha and Amir Zargari along with 21-year old Farshad Salehian backing Mehdi, it won’t be an easy task for a repeat victory, as all Iranians from different teams being known to pool together to help the cause of a compatriot.

Of the outsiders for the overall win, China’s Li Fuyu will be looking to prove himself after returning to the Trek-Marco Polo team after a season in the UCI Pro Tour with the now defunct Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team last season. Locals will be looking at this team not for Li, but for one of the aggressive Malaysian Loh Sea Keong.

The sprinters’ battle sees one man, Le Tua’s defending green jersey holder Anuar Manan starting as the favourite in a field that gives him reason to be cautious.

Trek-Marco Polo’s Russian sprinter Sergey Kudentsov will be the most likely threat to the defence of Anuar’s points classification win in the flat stages, while Japanese national team veteran Makoto Ijima, at 37, cannot be discounted either.

With 21 teams starting Malaysia’s oldest stage race with a possibly punishing opening stage today, it would also be a tricky situation for the teams with combinations of sprinters and climbers. It could be a day for an attack on the general classification as the peloton goes through three lower category climbs near Senawang, Dangi and Kuala Klawang, where the bunch could be split.

Nevertheless, that excitement could be tempered with a frantic chase towards the finish that could also bring about a mad bunch sprint. Rain, as it can be expected, could also change everything.

~ by missjewelz on January 10, 2008.

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