TANAH MERAH: Japanese rider Koji Fukushima almost swept all the awards on offer, including the prestigious yellow jersey, on the third day of the Tour of Langkawi, which ended here yesterday.
Bridgestone Anchor’s Fukushima broke away minutes into the start of Stage 3 and never looked back as he crossed the finish line 2:35 faster than his nearest rival, Acqua & Sapone’s Denis Bertolini.
Fukushima, competing in his third Tour of Langkawi, completed the 172.5-kilometre Stage Three in 4’25:01.
Because of the massive time he gained, Fukushima, apart from the stage win, also claimed the jerseys in the overall individual general classification, Asian rider and the King of the Mountain categories.
Fukushima said: “I’m happy and overwhelmed by the win. The emotion is just too much for me to handle at the moment.
“In the team (peloton), I’m considered a ‘small’ rider, so I really pushed hard to win today (yesterday) to gain respect and now I am the leader. I don’t know what tomorrow (today) may bring but I will try to keep this jersey for as long as I can.
“It is difficult for me to find the words to describe how I feel about today (yesterday). I thank my teammates for their support.”
After yesterday’s results, Fukushima’s team have taken over as the leaders of the team general classification and Asian team categories.
The only title that was beyond his reach yesterday was in the points competition, which remained firmly in the grip of Australia’s Olympic gold medallist, Graeme Brown.
The Ceramiche Panaria rider finished third in yesterday’s stage.
Brown said: “Koji rode a magnificent race today (yesterday) but I have to thank my teammates for helping me to get to the front. The heat was awesome too.
“Although we have lost the yellow, we managed to keep the sprint jersey.
“Definitely, we underestimated Koji in this race and left him alone too long in front.”
Although Fukushima, 31, is the second Asian after Filipino Merculio Ramos to wrest the yellow jersey, his victory yesterday was indeed historic because he won it in a stage that was completed.
Last year, Ramos was handed the yellow jersey after the first stage was nullified due to traffic problems.
STAGE THREE RESULTS (172.5km)
Top 10 finishers (Overall): 1. Koji Fukushima (Bridgestone Anchor) 4’25:01, 2. Denis Bertolini (Acqua & Sapone-Adria Mobil) 4’27:36, 3. Graeme Brown (Ceramica Panaria-Navigare), 4. Stefan Van Dijick (Mr Bookmaker.com-SportsTech), 5. Antonio Salomone (Barloworld), 6. Christian Bonfanti (Domina Vacanze), 7. Geoffroy Lequatre (Credit Agfricole), 8. James Van Landschoot (Landbouwkrediet-Colnago), 9. David Kopp (Weinsenhoff), 10. Jens Renders (Mr Bookmaker.com-SportsTech) all same time as Bertolini.
Leading overall standings: 1. Koji Fukushima (Bridgestone Anchor) 10’52:10, 2. Graeme Brown (Ceramica Panaria-Navigare) 2:38 behind, 3. Guillermo Bongiorno (Ceramica Panaria-Navigare) 2:44, 4. Oleg Grishkine (Navigators Insurance) 2:50, 5. Takashi Miyazawa (Bridgestone Anchor) 2:51, 6. Ahmad Fallanie Ali (Proton T-Bikes) 2:54, 7. Dennis Kraft (Action) 2:55, 8. Rene Joergensen (Barloworld) 2:55, 9. Christopher Bradford (Wismilak) 2:56, 10. Ryan Cox (Barloworld) 2:57.
Malaysian riders: 20. Suhardi Hassan (Proton T-Bikes) 4’27:36, 28. Md Fauzan Lutfi (Proton T-Bikes), 30. Nor Effandy Rosli (Mas), 31. Md Jasmin Ruslan (Proton T-Bikes), 34. Md Mahazir Hamad (Mas) all same time as Suhardi.
Top 10 Asian riders (Overall): 1. Koji Fukushima (Bridgestone Anchor) 10’52:10, 2. Takashi Miyazawa (Bridgestone Anchor) 2:51 behind, 3. Ahmad Fallanie Ali (Proton T-Bikes) 2:54, 4. Suhardi Hassan (Proton T-Bikes) 2:59, 5. Mahdi Sohrabi (Iran) 3:00, 6. Md Jasmin Ruslan (Proton T-Bikes), 7. Md Fauzan Lutfi (Proton T-Bikes), 8. Alireza Haghi (Iran), 9. Samai Samai (Wismilak), 10. Takehiro Mizutani (Bridgestone Anchor) all same time as Sohrabi.
Top 10 teams (Overall): 1. Bridgestone Anchor 32’42:55, 2. Domina Vacanze 2:35 behind, 3. Lanbouwkrediet-Colnago, 4. Ceramica Panaria-Navigare, 5. Mr Bookmaker.com-SportsTech, 6. Barloworld, 7. Acqua & Sapone - Adria Mobil, 8. Navigators Insurance, 9. Credit Agricole, 10. Great Britain all same time as Domina Vacanze.
Asian Teams (Overall): 1. Bridgestone Anchor 32’42:55, 2. Iran 2:35 behind, 3. Proton T-Bikes, 4. Malaysia, 5. Wismilak all same time as Iran.
TODAY'S STAGE FOUR (20.3km individual time trial)
AFTER a tough climb the previous day, the riders will have some respite as they compete in the first-ever time trial in this eastern town of Bachok. It will be flagged off at Pantai Irama and end at the same spot, 20km later. Due to the rather flat terrain, the sprinters should do well here. It is also a chance for them to make up lost ground on the climbers from the previous day’s stage. Riders will start at one-minute intervals, starting from 11.30am.