PUTRAJAYA: It was a symbolic gesture from Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak when he took time off from his duties to preside over the flag-handing over ceremony for the convoy of official cars for the Tour of Langkawi at his office on Monday.
And with the government throwing their full backing this time, the Malaysian National Cycling Federation (MNCF) are committed to stage the best-ever series if the championships.
The MNCF deputy president, Datuk Naim Mohamad, said all the preparations were in place for the Tour, which begins in Langkawi on Friday.
Most of the teams have arrived on the island and the Tour will see the biggest field of 23 sides.
“Three months ago, there were uncertainties over whether the race would even take off. But today, we have given the assurance to the government that it will be a successful race,” said Naim.
“In fact, this will be the first time that five Pro Tour teams will be in the championships. Some of the teams are already here and 10 more teams are due to come in on Tuesday.
“The convoy of cars should arrive in Langkawi by tonight and we have also placed all the personnel in their proper places. There will be some 1,500 volunteers, including the traffic police, involved this time and we look forward to things running smoothly from day one.”
The Tour was inaugurated in 1996 and the MNCF were asked to take over after the previous organisers, First Cartel wound up.
Of the five Pro Tour teams in the fray this time, four are French outfits – Bouygues Telecom, Credit Agricole, Francaise des Jeux and AG2R. The other team are Sweden's Unibet.com.
THE 10 STAGES
Feb 2: Langkawi (81km).
Feb 3: Kangar to Kulim (166km).
Feb 4: Kuala Kangsar to Cameron Highland (133km).
Feb 5: Gua Musang to Kota Baru (178km).
Feb 6: Kota Baru to Kuala Terengganu (167km).
Feb 7: Kuala Terengganu to Cukai (142km).
Feb 8: Kuantan to Karak (170km).
Feb 9: Shah Alam to Genting Highlands (84km).
Feb 10: Putrajaya, Seremban (173km).
Feb 11: Kuala Lumpur, criterium (80km).
Pro Tour: Bouygues Telecom (Fra), Credit Agricole (Fra), Francaise des Jeux (Fra), AG2R (Fra), Unibet.com (Swe).
Continental Pro: Tinkoff Credit Systems (Ita), Panaria (Ita), Selle Italia Seamenti Diquigiovanni (Ven), Skil-Shimano (Hol), Slipstream (Usa).
Continental: Victoria-ASC (Por), SouthAustralia.com-AIS (Aus), Nippo-Meitan (Jpn), Hong Kong Pro Cycling (Hkg), Giant Asia Racing (Tpe), Discovery Channel-Marco Polo (Chn), Polygon-Sweetnice (Ina), Le Tua (Mas).
National: South Africa, South Korea, Iran, Malaysia, MNCF development.