KUALA LUMPUR: NOT wanting to put their riders under unnecessary pressure, TSG Terengganu Cycling Team have set themselves a modest target despite entering the fray with favourites’ tag on their backs in the upcoming Le Tour de Langkawi.
The Malaysian continental outfit will be under close scrutiny in Malaysia’s premier multi-stage race following their exploit in last year’s edition which saw Artem Ovechkin clinching the Tour’s yellow jersey.
This year’s 24th edition starts off on April 6 in Kuala Lumpur and ends in Langkawi on April 13. The 8-stage race which covers a total of 1,250km on the west coast route will see teams from the WorldTour, Pro-Continental, Continental and national outfits vying for honours.
It was a great feat for TSG last year following historical achievement of becoming the first Asian team to win the overall individual title in the Tour’s 23-year history.
With Genting Highlands back in the picture, TSG are banking on their seasoned climbers to be in top shape to deliver the results. Apart from the 33-year old Ovechkin, the team are looking at former Mitchelton BikeExchange rider Drew Morey to form a formidable force with Ovechkin in the mountains.
Apart from Ovechkin and Morey, 2015 winner Youcef Reguigui, the former MTN-Qhubeka rider who came in third overall in the recent African Continental Championships, is also in strong contention to excel in the race. Finishing fourth in the recent Tour of Gabon, Reguigui will be flying in with sufficient mileage in his legs to mount a strong challenge for the top honours.
Apart from the mountains, TSG, with Mohd Zamri Salleh as the leader, are expected to be among the force in sprint challenges with Mohd Hariff Saleh recognised as among the top sprinters in the peloton.
TSG Chief Operating Officer, Nasiruddin Wan Idrus said with the inclusion of Genting, the team are not putting unnecessary pressures on the riders and have set a modest target of a top-five finish in the general classification and two podium finishes.
"Artem and Drew are our main men in the mountains while Harrif and Youcef will have their sights set on podium finishes based on their strength and previous achievement,” he said.
"Zamri remains as leader while the experienced Nur Amirul Fakhruddin Marzuki will take up the domestique role in the Tour,” he added.
Ovechkin, who hails from Berdsk, Russia, is said to be in top shape, coming in straight from three major Asia Tour races, Rondas Pilipina in the Philippines, Tour of Antalya and the Tour de Taiwan last week. Morey, formerly with Michelton-BikeExchange, meanwhile, was fourth overall in the Oceania Road Race championships.
TSG are currently second on the UCI Asia Tour ranking list, 32 points behind another Malaysian continental outfit Team Sapura Cycling who are at the top of the table with 1222 points.
A total of 22 teams will see action in 8-stage Tour organised by Human Voyage Sdn Bhd. The race starts off in the heart of Kuala Lumpur from the Petronas Twin Tower to Tampin while the much awaited Genting challenge takes place on the fourth day from Shah Alam. Langkawi will host the penultimate and final stage will 12 and 13 April.
Mohd Harif Saleh (MAS), Mohd Zamri Saleh (MAS), Nur Amirul Fakhruddin Marzuki (MAS), Artem Ovechkin (RUS), Drew Morey (AUS), Youcef Reguigui (ALG)
The organisers of LTdL 2019 also announced that Malaysian and European fans will be able to catch the action via live broadcast of 90 minutes of race and 30 minutes of highlights daily throughout the eight-day event. Overall, LTdL is looking at a coverage of 100 counties with 310 million viewers on television and 70 million viewers through Cycling.TV.
To enhance the fan experience and to encourage the community to come out and support this event, side activities will be held at the finishing location of each stage throughout the race.