LANGKAWI: Defending champions Team Barloworld have landed and they wasted no time in getting down to business for the 10th edition of the Telekom Malaysia Tour of Langkawi cycling championships, which begin here on Friday.
The British-based team worked out in hot weather conditions yesterday morning. And team manager Christian Andersen conceded that it would be tough retaining the title in a field, which included Liberty Seguros and Discovery Channel.
“It is going to be a very difficult competition this year. With so many strong teams here, we intend to take it one day at a time,” said Andersen.
“My boys have assured me that they will give nothing but their best to try and defend the team title.”
Andersen added that their priority this year was to get top honours in the general classification.
“It is important to stay competitive for 10 days ... not just a few stages if you aim to win the overall team title.”
South African Ryan Cox, who has eight professional wins under his belt, is expected to feature prominently again for Barloworld this year.
Cox took second spot overall last year, losing to Freddy Gonzalez of Colombia Selle Italia by a mere 48 seconds. Teammate Tiaan Kannemeyer finished fourth last year.
“The team, as a whole, have had experience of the weather and conditions here. That knowledge will come in handy,” said Andersen, who is making his third trip with the team to Malaysia.
The other team members of Barloworld are no pushovers either. They have the services of 2003 Tour of Normandy winner David Plaza Romero and former Tour of Langkawi stage winners in Italian Anthonio Salomone and Australian Sean Sullivan.
However, they will not have the services of new-signing Igor Astarloa who, according to Andersen, was not ready to make the trip here.
“We have to give Astarloa time to settle down as he is not fully prepared for this Tour,” he said.
The Tour will pass through nine states, ending in Kuala Lumpur. It covers a total distance of 1281.1km.