Cycling/Le Tour de Langkawi: Sprick springs surprise
Three riders fall just before the finish line in Stage One of the Le Tour de Langkawi at Kepala Batas yesterday. —Pic: HASAN ISMAIL.
IT was all turned upside down as Matthieu Sprick became only the third French rider in the history of Le Tour de Langkawi (LTdL) to win a stage when he outfoxed a 19-man breakaway to take Stage One of the 13th edition from Alor Star to Kepala Batas yesterday.
The 19-man break that went after 25 kilometres into the 182.6km stage finished more than 21 minutes ahead of lone chaser Rauf Nor Misbah of Malaysia while the main bunch was left 23 minutes behind, already setting the tone for the general classification (GC) battle.
A bunch sprint featuring the top sprinters in the bunch was expected on the flat stage run under scorching sun all the way, but it turned out so differently that the GC winner of this year’s Tour may well be found in one of the 19 top finishers yesterday.
That battle is now likely to feature 27-year-old climber Sprick, who has two Tour de France stage wins to his credit and now leads the LTdL, along with South Africa’s Ian McLeod, who finished 12th with only a 13-second deficit and the Serramenti Diquigiovanni duo of Jackson Rodriguez and Ruslan Ivanov, with Tinkoff’s Yauhen Sobal close by.
Malaysian team Le Tua’s new Australian signing Bernard Sulzberger did well to finish ninth and stands fifth in the GC, thanks to time bonuses collected in the three intermediate sprints on offer yesterday.
The 25-year-old Sulzberger — Herald Sun Tour mountains classification winner last year — will also be thinking he has put himself in with a fighting chance when the race gets to it’s eighth stage up Fraser’s Hill on Saturday.
Sprick took the victory after attacking his breakaway partners five kilometres from the finish and he put himself in a comfortable enough distance to stay ahead of the chasing pack led by Drapac-Porsche’s Mitchell Docker, who took charge of the green jersey as the points classification leader.
“It is my first race of the year and I was surprised at my own condition today (yesterday). I could see that there were some good sprinters in the break and it was whether I was going to join them or try my own way for the finish if I wanted to win. With five kilometres to go, that was what I did,” said Sprick.
Today’s second stage will be another flat one covering 159.7km from Butterworth to Sitiawan, with the written script expecting the Tour’s first bunch sprint finish.