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Matthews sprints to victory in Langkawi

The podium at Stage 1 of the 2010 Tour de Langkawi: from left, Ruslan Tleubayev (Kazakhstan); Michael Matthews (Jayco Skins); and Vidal Celis (Footon Servetto). Photo: Pulse Media Communications

Australian Michael Matthews (Team Jayco Skins) won the first stage of the Tour de Langkawi in Malaysia Monday.

Spaniard Vidal Celis (Footon-Servetto) took second in the 174.5km stage from Kota Bharu to Kuala Berang. Ruslan Tleubayev (Kazakhstan National Team) crossed third.

Australian Peter McDonald (Drapac Porsche) attacked 54km into the stage with Indonesian Rastra Patria Dinawan (Polygon Sweet Nice). Patria Dinawan was dropped soon afterwards, but McDonald continued on alone and took the day’s third hot-spot sprint, at Sungai Tong, plus the second KOM prime, the category 4 ascent at Sg Tong.

McDonald eventually built a lead of more than nine minutes only to be caught 25km from the line. The peloton controlled further breakaway efforts and Matthews won the bunch sprint.

“This is unbelievable. I came wanting to win but not expecting it, so it is really good,” Matthews said. “I didn’t know the other riders, I didn’t know who to follow, who was going to do, so I had to pick the right wheels. There were people going everywhere, I heard crashes behind, I think. I had to try to get out the best side and get a free run to the finish.

“The Footon rider (Celis) hit out pretty early so I had something to run at. It gave me something to chase and it worked out really well.”

McDonald ended the day tied on mountains points with Roman Zhiyentayev (Kazakhstan) and Adiq Othman (Drapac Porsche). Zhiyentayev took the category 4 prime at Tok Bali while Othman collected the prime at Kg Chapu. The race judges awarded the Australian the jersey, and he vowed to do his best to defend it.

“I wasn’t really looking to stay away until the end, I thought it was a bit out of my grasp,” he said. “I just wanted to pick up the sprint and KOM primes. I didn’t actually know there was one more KOM to come towards the end, maybe I might have pushed a bit more to try to take that, but it all worked out fine because I have the jersey anyway.

“The jersey is a goal now. I will just try to pick up points along the way, if I can. They tend to work out more by sprints, so you have to look for your team to help you out and keep you up near the front when it comes to the KOM.”

Anuar Manan (Geumsan Ginseng Asia) took the first and second hot-spot sprints and finished fourth on the day to slot into third overall, the top Asian in the general classification.

“I am very happy to have the green jersey,” he said at the post-stage press conference. “My target today was to take that and also go for the stage win. I only got one of those, the green jersey, but maybe I can keep it until the finish.”

Tuesday brings the longest stage of the 2010 Tour de Langkawi, the mainly flat 182.3km leg from Kuala Terengganu to Chukai.

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