February 5, 2006 – Here is the latest from Malaysia:
Tour of Langkawi: Stage 2: Tanjung Malim-Sitiawan.Feb 4th.164.7 km
After the surprising shake up in yesterday’s stage 1, the Tour de Langkawi got back to cycling fundamentals in today’s stage 2, and the relatively flat, 165 km stage played out in text book fashion.
A stage that was set for the sprinter’s , began with a bit of a lumpy opening, and over the first 20km, a steady series of attacks kept the pace high, and the leaders teams on guard. But when it became obvious that the major teams were not going to expose themselves to a repeat of the previous day, the pace settled, and an attack from one of the infamous aggressor brothers, Koji Fukushima, was matched by a Casino Filipino man, and the breakaway was on. The tremendous heat and humidity that characterizes this race, and region, prompts early feeding from the car to keep the cyclists well hydrated, so when the allowable feeding began at 30km, the two leaders were given an opportunity to stretch their advantage.
Similar to stage one, the gap would soon grow to over 7’30”, but unlike yesterday, this was a controlled and comfortable margin for the peloton. With about 70 km remaining, riders from South Africa, Sella Italia, and Navigators Insurance started rolling the pace in the field. Bouygues Telecom soon added some horsepower, and the gap slowly started to drop. With 30 km reaming, the South Africans wee doing the largest share of the work, and the long drag into a moderate headwind was softening the two escapees. The gap was dropping fast, and a very controlled finish to the chase, had the leaders back in the fold with just under 10km to go.
Now it was game for the sprinter’s team’s to take over, and Wiesenhof Akud, and Great Britain battled at the front until a late push by Panaria gained control in the final km. A hectic, and twisty finishing stretched was marked for drama, and a clip of the fencing at 300meters set up a high-speed crash, as race leader Richeze found himself the last man in front of team-mate Ruben Bongiorno. The speedy duo made easy work of the finish as Navigators’ Oleg Grishkin had to peel off the winning lead-out when the crash knocked him wide.
Bongiorno made it two for two for Panaria as the peloton anticipates the first climbing stage in tomorrows’ stage 3.
1 Ruben Bongiorno (Arg) Ceramica Panaria-Navigare 3.59.24 (41.28 km/h)
2 Maximiliano Richeze (Arg) Ceramica Panaria-Navigare
3 Steffen Radochla (Ger) Wiesenhof Akud
1 Maximiliano Richeze (Arg) Ceramica Panaria-Navigare 5.43.01
2 Steffen Radochla (Ger) Wiesenhof Akud 0.06
3 Erki PÃ¼tsep (Est) AG2R Prevoyance
4 Takashi Miyazawa (Jpn) Japan 0.12
5 Mark Walters (Can) Navigators Insurance 0.15
Stage 3: Lumut-Cameron Highlands”¦Feb 5th”¦150.6 km
The first of two serious climbing stages that should ultimately decide the General Classification began in the seaside town of Lumut, and finished high in the Malaysian mountains in Cameron Highlands. The stage opened with 80 km of flat roads before hitting the first of two linked climbs that would cover over 50km of vertical road.
A barrage of attacks launched the fastest opening hour of the tour thus far, as the field hit speeds of 60 km/hour on the wide open roads. Finally, South Africa delivered a power play move, putting 4 of their riders in a large break that included Navigators Insurance’s Grishkin and Walters, and Classification threats, Walters , David George (S. Africa), Gabriele Missaglia (Selle Italia), Robin Sharman (Recycling), and Sergey Matveyev (Panaria). Although eliminated from GC on the first day, the strong riding American Saul Raisin represented Credit Agricole in the lead group. The most significant team to miss the move was the red clad Relax lads, and the Spaniards were quick to rally and get the team to the front of the now lackadaisical bunch. With the gap at around 1’20″, the Rojo Armada sent all six riders to the helm, and drove a torrid pace in pursuit. The large group ahead had significant motivation however, and the gap was very slow to close. The race took on a sense of desperation as the chase was racing against the clock in an effort to catch the leaders before they hit the start of the climb at 85 km.
With the gap closing to under 45 seconds, the lower approach to the climb turned the road up ever so slightly, and the subtle pitch was enough to disrupt the smooth locomotion of the Spanish team. Without their committed effort, the gap started to grow once again, but now the lead group was starting to shed some excess baggage. As the two groups passed the 50km to go banner, riders were already splattered over several kilometers, and the leaders were rolling a steady pace, urged on mostly by the South Africans.
With over 5 km of climbing, there were plenty of dramatic attacks and surges that would shred the main field, and eventually select out a very elite group of mountain goats. Navigators Insurance’s climbing star Cesar Grajales was one of the more active attackers, along with fellow Columbians Walter Pedraza, and Jose Serpa of Selle Italia, while defending champ Ryan Cox matched every move, along with the Iranian duo of Mizbani and Askari. The leaders continued a steady pace while the chasers continued to whittle away at the gap”¦and each other. Ultimately, a hard attack by Grajales and Credit Agricole’s Francesco Bellotti, caught Cox in bad position, and the two sped away along with Serpa and Pedraza, Askari, and Bouygues Telecom’s Laurent Lefevre, & Le Boulanger, with Bellotti’s team-mate Le Boulanger. The lead group was now down to ten riders including Walters, Raisin, George & Lill, Giant-Asia’s David McCann, LPR’S Iannetti, Missaglia, Kristian House, and Gene Bates. Bates and House would fall off and Walters and Iannetti found themselves in difficulty with about 8 km to go. A series of attacks would leave Raisin and the two South Africans alone at the front, with McCann and Missaglia struggling to keep close. The chase was sweeping past the dropped riders as they tried to close on the leaders, but in the end, Raisin attacked, and finished strong to take the stage ahead of George, with Lill 17″ back. McCann would finish next, and then Missaglia, with Lefevre leading the chase of five riders in at 2’16″.
George takes the leaders jersey with Missaglia in 2nd, and Grajales’ 9th place finish moves him into 3rd in Classification. Tomorrow brings a bit of a reprieve as the peloton will hit the low roads for a flat journey south, before heading back to the hills for the race’s infamous climb of Genting Highlands in stage 5.
1 Saul Raisin (USA) Credit Agricole 4.03.55 (37.05 km/h)
2 David George (RSA) South Africa
3 Darren Lill (RSA) South Africa 0.17
1 David George (RSA) South Africa 9.47.06
2 Gabriele Missaglia (Ita) Selle Italia Diquigiovanni 0.40
3 Cesar Grajales (Col) Navigators Insurance 2.22