With the general classification all but clinched following Danilo Celano’s Genting stage win, only Max Walscheid’s points jersey and Nur Atman Zariff’s mountains jersey were still up for grabs on the eighth and final stage of the 25th Le Tour de Langkawi (UCI 2.Pro) on Friday.
While only the formalities remained for Celano to clinch Team Sapura’s second straight race victory following eventual NTT Pro Cycling climber Ben Dyball’s (AUS) win last year, the German sprinter wasted little time ensuring his green (turquoise) jersey win.
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Walscheid (NTT Pro Cycling) not only captured the first intermediate sprint bonus at the 32-kilometre mark in Telaga Harbour over nearest rivals Taj Jones (ARA Pro Cycling Sunshine Coast) and Harrif Saleh (Terengganu Inc. TSG Cycling), but also by winning the 108.5km stage — his second of the race after topping Stage 3 under the Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur on Sunday.
“It is a special feeling, particularly because it was a very hard race, especially for me because I am a pure sprinter. Today it was a matter of good teamwork to put me in the place to go for the win. We discussed many possibilities for the race in our meeting and with my teammate, Samuele Battistella, in the front in the breakaway was really good because like this I could really focus on the sprint,” said Walscheid of the reigning U23 road world champion after defeating Italian Luca Pacioni (Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec) and Australian Jones in the bunch sprint finale.
“I didn’t need to follow any moves and could just save as much energy for the final sprint. In the end, we did a great lead-out and I won.”
Saleh, who finished third on points, made history as the only Asian rider to record three stage wins in his career, including two stages this year and one in 2019. Celano’s GC win gives Sapura not only its second overall victory but helps give the Malaysian squad two team classification wins as well — another national first.
“It is a very important race for my team, so we prepared very hard for this and the plan went well,” said Celano, who best Stage 1 winner and best Asian rider Yevgeniy Fedrov, 19, of Vino-Astana Motors by 26 seconds and Russian Artem Ovechkin (Terengganu Inc. TSG Cycling) by 35.
“I was a bit sick this morning,” the 30-year-old Italian continued. “I thought I would not be able to finish at the start, but I thank the whole team for pushing me, including the staff. They had believed more in my overall victory than me myself.”
Walscheid was not the only rider to clinch his classification win, as Celano’s teammate Zariff finalised the mountains classification and becomes the first Malaysian to take home the red jersey in race history.
“It is a good memory for me,” said Zariff. “I am more of a time triallist, but I can climb as well. I want to try to win more this season, beginning with the next race.”
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