THE best Malaysian rider’s jersey in the Jelajah Malaysia is set to be retained by Kuala Lumpur’s Suhardi Hassan (pic), but a marked improvement by the younger riders in the national road programme should be more uplifting.
Malaysia are second in the Malaysian teams classification, behind continental team Le Tua — who have taken this race by storm — likely to bag the overall individual and points classification titles as well.But with coach Aminuddin Sulaiman having mainly young charges as he charts the plan for Le Tour de Langkawi (LTdL) next month, it all suddenly looks quite good.Fauzan Ahmad Lutfi put in a good shot in trying to close the gap in the Malaysian riders’ classification to Suhardi, who led by four minutes and 33 seconds at the start of yesterday’s mountain stage up to Gohtong Jaya in Genting Highlands.But the 21-year-old Fauzan cut that to just a minute and 53 seconds after finishing seventh in the stage, just one minute and 44 seconds behind winner Hossein Askari.
Suhardi occupies fifth place in the general classification (GC), one that promises a better finish than his 13th place last year, while Fauzan is ninth.Trek-Marco Polo’s Loh Sea Keong is the third best placed Malaysian in the GC at 19th, albeit seven minutes and 15 seconds behind Suhardi.Other national team riders Rauf Nor Misbah, Faris Abdul Razak and Thum Weng Kin are fourth, fifth and sixth in the Malaysian riders’ classification, proving further that there is some improvement shown by the road programme.What is certain is that riders in the road programme have outshone those in the endurance programme under Ng Joo Ngan, who has been given extra funding under the MCF Continental Team despite the riders already being fully funded by the National Sports Council.”Forget about all that. I think we can improve further. Suhardi is climbing and sprinting well, like he should.”The rest of us just have to start working like a proper team and we can startachieving better results,” said Fauzan, who took on the leadership role in the team for Jelajah Malaysia, after Suhardi opted to ride for Kuala Lumpur in this race.