Cycling / le Tour de langkawi: Quality field promises thrills

NST Online>9/2/2008

By : Arnaz M. Khairul

 Malaysia’s Suhardi Hassan (fourth from left) shakes hands with Serramenti Diquigiovanni team rider Danilo Hondo at a team introduction ceremony in Alor Star yesterday. — Pix: HASAN ISMAIL.

Malaysia’s Suhardi Hassan (fourth from left) shakes hands with Serramenti Diquigiovanni team rider Danilo Hondo at a team introduction ceremony in Alor Star yesterday. — Pix: HASAN ISMAIL.

INTEREST in the race for the overall general classification (GC) of the 13th edition of Le Tour de Langkawi (LTdL) has been overwhelmed by the mouthwatering anticipation of a clash of sprinters with a dash of real belief that a Malaysian spoiler may be on the cards.

And that clash will most likely begin today with a flat 182.6 kilometre flat stage from Alor Star to Kepala Batas. The arrival of Danilo Hondo with his new Serramenti Diquigiovanni team has assured last year’s five-stage winner Alberto Loddo of Tinkoff Credit Systems a sure fight in the battles within the bunch sprints.

South African riders observe a minute’s silence in memory of former rider Ryan Cox who died  last year.

South African riders observe a minute’s silence in memory of former rider Ryan Cox who died last year.

But it won’t just be Loddo versus Hondo, as Bouygues Telecom’s Aurelien Clerc, CSF-Navigare’s Ruben Bongiorno and Credit Agricole’s Jeremy Hunt will be sure to arrive in those final kilometres of the seven flat stages on offer in this year’s race.

Local team Le Tua yesterday again reiterated that they are highly motivated to put their sprinter Anuar Manan in the running as well.

The unavailability of the Genting climb, replaced by the Fraser’s Hill stage on the eighth day of the Tour, has opened up the race for the general classification — albeit having spoiled the plans of Serramenti Diquigiovanni — who had come armed with climbers aiming to end their three year wait for their third individual GC title in LTdL after Hernan Dario Munoz did it for them in 2002 and Freddy Gonzalez in 2004.
“Unfortunately for us, we had planned for the Genting stage, but this is not possible this time. Fraser’s Hill might not necessarily be won by a climber, so we will also be looking for our sprinters to do something,” said Serramenti Diquigiovanni team manager Gianni Savio, whose team come from the Vuelta San Luis in Argentina, where Venezuelan climber Jose Carlos Ochoa won a stage.

“The most important sprinter in this race will be Loddo, because he has the form and he comes from winning a stage in the Tour of Qatar. The stages which will give Hondo an advantage are those with a little bit of climbing, but here most of them are just flat. In the Vuelta San Luis we also saw Bongiorno there and he looks like he’s in good form.”

If favourites need to be named than Loddo’s Tinkoff Credit Systems team must be the ones loaded with them, as apart from the Italian they have likely overall winners Pavel Brutt and Walter Pedraza, for both of whom the Fraser’s Hill stage might be set for. But the start of the Tour today is likely to be one set for Loddo.

“I think I’m coming here with good form as I started with the Tour of Qatar and even won a stage there. So, the pressure of delivering my first win of the season is not there. I’ll be going for the win right from the first stage,” said Loddo.

Unless some threatening breakaways succeed prior to the Fraser’s Hill stage next Saturday, the GC and the Asian rider’s classification will be decided there.

Until then, it will be the bunch sprint finishes — which could sometimes prove to be spectacular — which may well be the order of the Tour all week.

~ by missjewelz on February 9, 2008.

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