Monday, 31 January 2011

Tour de Langkawi stage 9

After six days of trying, the breakaway specialists in Le Tour de Langkawi finally had their say today, going clear during a shortened stage to Nilai and fighting it out for the win. First to the line was the big Russian rider Boris Shpilevsky (Tabriz Petrochemical Pro Team), who hit the line two seconds ahead of French rival Perrig Quemeneur (Team Europcar) and five ahead of the next chasers. These were led home by yesterday’s stage winner Robert Forster (United Healthcare), who went clear in the break rather than banking on another bunch gallop.

“Today’s race was faster, it was always attacks, attacks, attacks,” Shpilevsky said after the 127 kilometre leg. “The move went inside the final 20 kilometres to go and I was really lucky to be there. When we start to work I thought of the chance to be in this group with this group, but I don’t think about being the winner. We had many very strong guys in the breakaway, such as Robert Forster…it’s very difficult for the sprint [with him]. But I went on the attack from the break at the end and it worked out very good.”

The stage was shortened due to flooding and that prompted riders to race more aggressively than before. After a spate of short-lived moves, the 28 year old Shpilevsky pushed ahead with ten others and held a solid lead over the main bunch. Although it didn’t go about a minute, those behind were not organised and the break stayed clear to fight it out for the win.

Shpilevsky has a rapid finish, but didn’t fancy his chances against Forster. “The others, like always, were looking at everyone. Maybe they don’t want to do it [attack] because it’s two kilometres to go, everybody is thinking about the sprint but not about the attack in the last two kilometres. But I jumped clear and got into a small breakaway, finishing five seconds before the others. I’m very happy.”

Race leader Jonathan Monsalve (Androni Giocattoli) finished in the main bunch, 26 seconds behind the winner. He took a win in the first of two intermediate sprints, extending his overall lead to five seconds over Libardo Nino Corredor (Le Tua). As a result he’s looking like a solid bet to take the overall classification tomorrow.

“It has been another very hard stage. Once again my whole team has worked a lot,” he said. “When I saw the sign for one kilometre to go to the first sprint, I was marking Libardo to make sure that he wasn’t getting seconds from me. I also realised the sprinters were not going for the sprints so I sprinted and gained three seconds. It makes me more calm for tomorrow when I’ll have to preserve the lead.”

One of the sprinters who didn’t try too hard today was quadruple stage victor Andrea Guardini. He did take second in the first intermediate sprint, but held back thereafter. He congratulated Shpilevsky for his win, saying that he detected the right breakaway and deserved his success.

“In my team we had Miyazawa in the first group so we gave him the green light to look for the victory,” he said, explaining the tactics. “As for myself, at three kilometres to go I decided to not sprint for what would be maybe 4 or 5 points, they are not really needed. I wasn’t at 100 percent of my capacity today because each day I feel a bit [more] tired. The essential thing today was to consolidate my blue jersey and keep some strength for tomorrow.”

The final stage of the race will conclude with a laps of a circuit in Kuala Lumpur. A bunch sprint is almost always the outcome and Guardini is psyched to try to take his fifth stage of the race. Monsalve will be motivated to preserve his five second advantage over Nino Corredor, while the Tabriz Petrochemical riders will be gunning to hold onto the team general classification lead they grabbed today.

How it happened:

Due to heavy flooding along part of the route, today’s stage start in Melaka was delayed one hour until midday and the route was shortened from 151.7 to 127 kilometres. The final 18 kilometres of the revised course was the same as had originally been planned, but there were substantial changes to the rest.

As a result of the modifications, the number of hot spot sprints dropped from three to two, and the climbs from one to zero.

The first intermediate sprint came after just 15.9 kilometres of racing and there
yellow jersey Jonathan Monsalve took first and added three seconds to his advantage over closest challenger Libardo Nino Corredor. Points leader Andrea Guardini (Farnese Vini – Neri Sottoli) also bolstered his own advantage, netting second ahead of Dennis Van Niekerk (MTN Qhubeka) and his main rival for the blue points jersey, Anuar Manan (Terengganu ProAsia Cycling).

The bunch remained together for most of the first hour of racing. An attempt by Taiji Nishitani (Aisan Racing Team) to go clear was briefly successful, but then he was recaptured. Six riders then went clear four kilometres before the second intermediate sprint; Zainal Mohd Nur Rizuan (Malaysia National Team) was first to the line, beating Rahim Emami (Azad
University Cycling Team), Hossein Askari (Tabriz Petrochemical Team) and Jose Mendes (CCC Polsat Polkowice).

Just after the halfway point, 70 kilometres into the stage, 15 riders were out front. They were joined by yellow jersey Monsalve, and this prompted the rest of the peloton to chase the move down. A group of eleven then went clear, chased by six others. The first of these groups contained yesterday’s stage winner Robert Foster (United HealthCare), who was clearly finding his legs after a winter of disrupted training due to weather.

Amongst the others in the lead were Takashi Miyazawa (Farnese Vini – Neri Sottoli), Omar Lombardi (Colnago CSF Inox), Perrig Quemeneur (Team Europcar),
Koen De Kort (Skil-Shimano), Andrei Krasilnikau (Chipotle Development Team), Mendes and Baptiste Planckaert (Landbouwkrediet). The time gap hovered between 30 and 40 seconds for quite some time, briefly going up to 54 seconds. With five kilometres remaining it had dropped back to 35 seconds.

Mendes then clipped away and opened a gap over the others, but was then joined by Boris Shpilevksy (Tabriz Petrochemical Team). The Russian jumped clear inside the final kilometre and hit the line two seconds clear of Quemeneur. Forster took third, five seconds back, while the rest of the break came in behind him. Dene Rogers (Giant Kenda
Pro Cycling Team) led home the main bunch 26 seconds later, with race leader Jonathan Monsalve finishing alongside Libardo Nino Corredor and maintaining his lead. There’s just over 100 kilometres left in this year’s Tour de Langkawi and the Venezuelan is looking increasingly likely as the final winner of this race.