SAPURA WILL RISE TO THE CHALLENGE
KUALA LUMPUR: After three months of preparations, Sapura Cycling Team will be ready for the 24th edition of Le Tour de Langkawi which will be contested from April 6 to 13.
Team manager Sayuti Zahit said the team's focus will be on the ultimate target of the yellow jersey, apart from the Asian riders' jersey through three promising young riders lined up for the eight-stage tour which will begin in Kuala Lumpur and end in Langkawi, covering a total distance of 1,226.1km.
Sayuti stated that the fourth stage from Shah Alam to Genting Highlands will be the most important stage and Sapura's strategy will be built around that stage in their third appearance in the race, touted as Asia's biggest race.
"We hope that in this year's LTdL we will be putting up a strong challenge, especially in the Queen stage up Genting Highlands, which will shape the strategy of the team. For the moment, we will adopt a stage-by-stage strategy and we hope the six riders we have selected will carry out plan as expected of them," said Sayuti.
"We are now at the top of the teams ranking in the UCI Asia Tour and I hope we will remain in that position after LTdL and till the end of the season."
Three local riders Muhamad Zawawi Azman, Muhamad Nur Aiman Zariff and Akmal Hakim Zakaria, along with foreign riders Benjamin Dyball and Jesse Ewart of Australia and Moldovan Cristian Relianue will be carrying Sapura's challenge in the race.
Dyball will be their best bet for the overall title challenge as the former St George Continental Team rider has both the experience and the track record to do well in this race, having finished second behind eventual overall winner Artem Ovechkin of TSG in the Cameron Highlands stage last year, when he also finished third overall behind Ovechkin and Lukasz Owsian of CCC Sprandi Polkowice.
Dyball is also no stranger to the Asian cycling scene, having bagged overall victories in the International Tour de Banyuwangi, Ijen and the Princess Maha Siridhorn Cup Tour of Thailand, along with second placed finishes in the Tour of Fuzhou and Tour of Taihu Lake.
He will also be loaded with confidence coming into the race, fresh from his double victory in the road race and individual time trial at the Oceania Cycling Championships two weeks ago, before he finished third overall in the Tour of Tochigi in Japan last week.
Dyball's quest for the yellow jersey will be assisted by Ewart, 31, who is building up his season well after finishing 12th in the Tour of Taiwan earlier this month and 24th in the Herald Sun Tour in January.
Sapura's new signing is Raileanu, who made an impression with the Torku Sekerspor team last year when he won the yellow jersey in the Tour of Cartier and emerged the national champion of Moldova, along second placed finishes in the Tour of Antalya and Tour of Mesopotamia.
The three youngsters Zawawi, Aiman and Akmal have been given sufficient exposure in the Herald Sun Tour, Tour of Taiwan and the Tour of Tochigi in preparation for LTdL.
"We hope Dyball and Zawawi will be able to provide a challenge in the race for the yellow jersey, especially in Genting Highlands, while Nur Aiman will be capable of challenging for the Asian riders' jersey," said Sayuti.
LTdL will begin with Stage 1 from Kuala Lumpur to Tampin, covering 176.9km and ends with a Loop of Dataran Lang, Kuah in Langkawi.
SAPURA CYCLING TEAM
Muhamad Zawawi Azman (MAS); Muhamad Nur Aiman Zariff (MAS); Akmal Hakim Zakaria (MAS); Benjamin Dyball (AUS); Jesse Ewart (AUS); Cristian Raileanu (MDV)
This year’s edition will start off with a challenging 176.9 km hilly route from the PETRONAS Twin Towers (KLCC) in Kuala Lumpur, to Dataran Tampin in Negeri Sembilan. The 8-stage race covers a total distance of 1,234 km, mainly on the west coast route.
The much awaited Genting climb takes place on the fourth day from Shah Alam. Langkawi will host the penultimate and final stages on 12 and 13 April respectively.
In tandem with the Tour’s “Sports Unite, Cycling Contributes” theme, the organisers are hoping that this year’s edition receives even greater response and support from spectators, masses and fans across Malaysia.
Malaysian and European fans will be able to catch the action via a 90-minute live broadcast of the race and a 30-minute daily highlights throughout the eight-day event. Overall, LTdL is looking at a coverage of over 100 counties with 310 million viewers on television and 70 million viewers through Cycling.TV.
To enhance fan experience and to encourage the community to come out and support this event, accompanying activities will be held at the finishing location of each stage throughout the race.