Le Tour De Langkawi: Italians rule the roost

Scenic backdrop: Cyclists ride during Stage 7 of the LTdL from Pantai Cenang to Pantai Cenang in Langkawi yesterday. — AFP

Scenic backdrop: Cyclists ride during Stage 7 of the LTdL from Pantai Cenang to Pantai Cenang in Langkawi yesterday. — AFP

ITALIANS hogged the limelight for the third day in a row as Simone Bevilacqua shocked the established sprinters to grab the penultimate 106.8km Stage 7 which started and ended at Pantai Cenang (Cenang Beach) in Langkawi Island.

The 22-year-old Nerri Sottoli Selle Italia-KTM rider from Thiene, Italy, stormed to the front towards the end to romp home in two hours, 17 minutes and 59 seconds yesterday. Greek rider Charlampos Kastrantas of Brunei Continental team and Australian Craig Wiggins of St George Continental Cycling Team. All were credited with the same time due to the bunch finish.

In the general classification category, leading Aussie Benjamin Dyball of Sapura Cycling Team edged closer to the yellow jersey after he ended Stage 7 at the top of the standings.

He continues to stay 50 seconds ahead of American Keegan Swirbul of Floyd’s Pro Cycling and a minute and five seconds in front of Kazakhstan’s Vadim Pronskiy (Kaz) of Vino Astana’s.

Colombian rider Hernan Aguirre of Interpro Cycling Academy who was second after Stage 6, dropped to fourth place.

In the race for the King of the Mountain (Red Jersey) title, Australian Angus Lyons of Oliver’s Real Food Racing has almost wrapped up the title after dominating the two climbing zones on Bukit Beringin and Telaga Harbour to charge ahead by 59 points, which is 34 points more than his closest rival Dyball.

After securing third place yesterday, Terengganu Inc TSG Cycling Team’s (TSG) Mohd Hariff Saleh again emerged as the best Malaysian finisher with a ninth place finish, while Team Sapura Cycling’s (TSC) Muham­mad Zawawi Azman still leads the overall Best Malaysian Rider chart.

But Bevilacqua’s shock win was the story of the day as all eyes were on fellow Italian Matteo Pelucchi of Androni Giocattoli who was in search of a third consecutive stage win after taking Stage 5 and 6. Nevertheless, it was a good three days for Italy as their riders recorded a third straight stage win.

“I’m actually not an expert sprinter because my team was banking on Luca (Raggio) to take the stage, not to mention he was also in front of the peloton

“But Luca was caught towards the finishing line and at the last 800m. I decided to stay behind until I found a gap on the right to attack towards the end. I think the front riders were a bit hesitant as there seemed to be a dog crossing the road.”

Meanwhile, Dyball, who has a total time of 26 hours, 58 minutes and 11 seconds is starting to believe he can win this year’s edition but he continues to remain cautious.

“Like the stages before this, the races have been tough because there have been many who have tried to establish themselves in front of the peloton until my teammates and me had to fight back to reach the front.”

“But for the final stage tomorrow (today) I will continue to monitor the other riders so that they don’t try to establish too far a lead.”