LANGKAWI: Sunday’s battle between the sprinters may well decide who will claim the coveted yellow jersey (overall champion) at the end of the Le Tour de Langkawi (LTdL) race.
The 20th edition of the race starts in Pantai Chenang and the explosive bunch sprints in the predominantly flat stages could prove decisive to the final outcome on March 15.
The likes of household names in road cycling like Alessandro Petacchi and Jakub Mareczko (Southeast), Andrea Guardini (Astana Pro Team), Caleb Ewan (Orica Greenedge) and Francesco Chicchi (Androni Giocattoli) will be the ones to watch for with local hopes lying on the shoulders of Terengganu Cycling Team’s Anuar Manan and Harrif Saleh.
Harrif is on form this season, having already bagged two UCI Asia Tour stage wins in Malaysia.
Italian Guardini is one of the favourites and he is no stranger to the LTdL, having won a record 14 stages.
“I have worked a lot during the winter to prepare for this season. I have been in good form, and that showed in the Tour of Oman earlier this month where I won a stage,” said the 25-year-old Guardini.
“We will try to go for the first win, then see what happens after that,” added Guardini, who achieved a record of six stage wins in the 2012 edition.
Young Ewan of Australia is also a strong contender and is touted as a surprise package in this year’s edition.
The 41-year-old Petacchi of Italy still packs a powerful sprint, but he is now more as a lead-out man for compatriot Mareczko.
Petacchi, however, said he will not pass on an opportunity to go for a win should it arise.
“We need to do good sprints with Mareczko to help him win stages. But if there are some days when he finds it hard, then I can try to win myself,” said Petacchi.
Also to look out for is Britain’s Team Sky, who will parade a team led by young Colombian Sebastian Henao.
“I am going to look at how the race goes. A number of Colombians have done well here and we are used to the weather," said Henao.
To date, Colombia have won the overall title four times through Hernan Dario Munoz (2002), Jose Serpa (2009 and 2012) and Julian Arredondo (2013).