Iran's Mirsamad Poursayedigolakhour (centre) shares the joy of becoming the LTdL champion with his Tabriz Petrochemical team after the final stage of the Tour on Saturday. - BERNAMA
KUALA TERENGGANU: Iranian Mirsamad Poursayedigolakhour has made history by becoming the first Asian rider to win the Le Tour de Langkawi (LTdL).
In the final stage from Tasik Kenyir to Kuala Terengganu on Saturday, Italian rider Andrea Guardini of Astana grabbed his second stage win of the year while Tabriz Petrochemical’s Mirsamad finished safely in the bunch to claim the overall win.
Guardini beat Lithuanian rider Aidis Kruopis of Orica GreenEdge in a furious sprint to the finish line of the 103.1km stage in 2’15:55. Italian Francesco Chicchi of Yellow Fluo finished third.
Eritrean rider Merhawi Kudus of MTN Qhubeka finished second in the overall standings – just eight seconds behind Mirsamad. Colombia’s Isaac Bolivar of UnitedHealthcare took third place – a further 11 seconds back.
Malaysia’s best overall finisher in the LTdL this year is Adiq Husainie Othman of Terengganu Cycling. He was 10:35 behind Mirsamad.
While it was a historical day for Asian cycling, Mirsamad’s win did raise some eyebrows. He was, after all, suspended for two years from May 2011 after testing positive for using performance-enhancement drug EPO in the Tour of Iran that year.
Upon returning from his ban last June, he claimed the overall win in the mountainous Tour of Qinghai Lake in July before finishing second overall in the Tour of Borneo in Sabah last August.
“I can promise you that my team-mates and I are clean. It is winter where we come from but in the south of Iran it is hot like here. We spent some time there to prepare for this race,” Mirsamad said.
The Iranian took control of the leader’s yellow jersey after winning Stage Four from Subang to Genting Highlands in a remarkable manner.
Initially two minutes behind the lead group in that stage, Mirsamad powered his way up the steepest part of Genting to rein in and then overtake the leaders to clinch victory.
“I’m very happy to win the jersey here and I thank my team-mates ... they did a lot of defending after I took control of the jersey,” said a happy Mirsamad.
Meanwhile, Guardini can fly home smiling after playing second fiddle to Dutch sprinter Theo Bos of Belkin in previous stages. Bos was in stunning form as he grabbed four wins in the LTdL this year.
With Saturday’s win, Guardini holds the record number of stage wins in the LTdL – 14 since 2011.