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Brown grabs Langkawi opener

Imagine that if besides the backbiting that so often characterized the Kobe-Shaq era, the pair of NBA stars had literally fought for the ball during their stint with the L.A. Lakers. Sounds preposterous, but don’t think it never happens in the world of sports — including cycling. Take for example, the pair of speedsters from Italian pro squad Ceramica Panaria. Though Graeme Brown and Ruben Bongiorno sport the same bright orange jerseys, when it comes time to sprint one might as well be riding for the Hatfields, the other the McCoys.

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By Jason Sumner, VeloNews associate editor

The opening stage

The opening stage

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Imagine that if besides the backbiting that so often characterized the Kobe-Shaq era, the pair of NBA stars had literally fought for the ball during their stint with the L.A. Lakers. Sounds preposterous, but don’t think it never happens in the world of sports — including cycling.

Take for example, the pair of speedsters from Italian pro squad Ceramica Panaria. Though Graeme Brown and Ruben Bongiorno sport the same bright orange jerseys, when it comes time to sprint one might as well be riding for the Hatfields, the other the McCoys.

Two years ago the pair went head-to-head at the final stage of the Tour de Langkawi, with Bongiorno coming out ahead. And on Friday the rivalry was renewed, this time with the Aussie Brown edging out his Argentinean teammate in the opening event of the 10-day Malaysian stage race.

“I had his wheel and I was yelling at him to go but he wasn’t real keen to go,” explained Brown of the gamesmanship that went down in the last 500 meters of the mostly flat 106.9km stage on touristy Langkawi Island off Malaysia’s northwest coast. “He just started his sprint normally, then went across to the right and I was sort of stuck in the wind. That was no good, so I just went straight up the gaps and got clear of the bunch. Bongiorno had a bit of a gap, so I started in on his wheel. I supposed it looked like the perfect leadout, but as it turned out we were just both racing each other.”

Brown’s assessment of the 2:19:32 stage was much kinder than two years ago when he called his precocious teammate “an idiot,” but he did admit that two teammates fighting for one spot is not ideal. “Definitely not ideal,” he said.

Behind the Panaria boys, Navigators Russian speedster Oleg Grishkini completed the podium in third, on a day that actually included a little more action than anyone had anticipated.

After some early solo suicide breaks came and went, a move of about 20 formed and grew its advantage to 1:30. The move would eventually disintegrate, but not before Panaria and Discovery, who were both caught out, had to burn some energy at the front to bring things back together.

“A break went quite early, at about 20-30km in with maybe eight guys,” explained Barloworld’s Ryan Cox. “We had one there. Then another group went across and there was three of us in that group, so we had four of about 15 to 20. But no one really wanted to drive through and commit. At about 25km to go it started coming down.”

Joseba Beloki came to Malaysia in hopes of regaining his once-great form

Joseba Beloki came to Malaysia in hopes of regaining his once-great form

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From there the reigning South African national champion tried to give a go all alone, but with the peloton coming hard it wasn’t to be.

“I got in another move with about five guys with 15km to go,” continued Cox. “Then there was just two of us [Great Britain’s Kristian House was the other rider] and at about 5km I broke from him.”

Cox would soon be swept over by the hard chasing bunch, but the drama wasn’t over yet.

With less than 3km to go a crash brought down numerous riders, including Discovery Channel’s Tony Cruz and Fumi Beppu. But thanks to a new UCI rule, which credits the same time to all riders if there is a crash within 3km instead of the old 1km, no one lost time.

Help needed

Help needed

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(After the race the initial set of results did not reflect this, and included multiple time gaps, but there were assurances from officials that the results would be changed.)

“They put the rule in so nobody would take any risks,” lamented Discovery’s Michael Creed. “But obviously it didn’t work today.”

What did work was the continued battle between teammates Brown and Bongiorno. “It’s not exactly conventional but the director just lets us go at it,” said Brown, who won a pair of Olympic gold medals on the track in Athens last summer, and has now won five TdL stages in the last four years racing in Malaysia. “We both obviously want to win and get a bit fired up.”

RACE NOTES
The Terminal
Stories of travel troubles are commonplace at faraway races like the Tour de Langkawi. But the tale of Navigators climbing ace Cesar Grajales goes beyond epic journey. It took the Colombian a full week to get from him home in South America to Langkawi Island where the race kicked off on Friday.

The trip started with a puddle-jumper flight into Bogotá, then a flight up to Miami, where he was supposed to connect to New York City, before heading to Malaysia. But because of the snowstorm that was pounding the northeast at the time, Grajales had to be rerouted to Los Angeles, where he spent two nights before finally boarding the Malaysia Airlines flight that would take him to Kuala Lumpur and on to Langkawi.

But Grajales’ trip hit another snag when he arrived in KL and was held up at customs because he did not have a visa.

“They had told me I wouldn’t need one,” explained Grajales, who had to spend the night in the KL airport before the problem was finally resolved and he was put on a flight that arrived in Langkawi a day before the race began. “Some important person called and like magic I had a visa.”

While still a little beleaguered by the whole ordeal, the Navigators top GC threat here in Malaysia said he’d be fine.

Casualty No. 1
The Navigators got another tough break before the opening day was done when Australian Hilton Clarke was forced to pull out of the race due to stomach problems.

“He was throwing up all night,” said team director Ed Beamon. “As soon as we hit the first climb today, that was it. He’d been sitting at the back the whole time.”

Stage 2 map

Stage 2 map

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JERSEY UPDATE
Yellow (Overall): Graeme Brown (Aus), Ceramica Panaria
Green (Points): Graeme Brown (Aus), Ceramica Panaria
Polka Dot (KoM): Kristian House (GB), Great Britain National
Blue (Top Asian): Mahdi Sohrabi, Iran National

NEXT UP: Stage 2 — Kangar to Kepala Batas, 171.6 km
After the entire race caravan loads up on ferry boats for the trip back to the Malaysian mainland, the race resumes with a flat run from Kangar to Kepala Batas. The finish venue, which is home to the Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi will be making its debut appearance. The riders will be face Category 4 climb at Bukit Selambau near the end of the stage. This route will also take the peloton through several towns in the north like Alor Setar, Gurun, Jeniang, Kuala Ketil and Tasek Gelugor before rolling to a likely mass sprint in Kepala Batas.

Photo Gallery

Results

Stage 1 Results

1. Graeme Brown, Ceramica Panaria – Navigare, 2:19:32

2. Guillermo Bongiorno, Ceramica Panaria – Navigare

3. Oleg Grishkine, Navigators Insurance

4. Stefan Van Dijck, Mrbookmaker.Com – Sports Tech

5. Antonio Salomone, Team Barloworld

6. Maxim Iglinskiy, Domina Vacanze

7. Dennis Kraft, Action

8. Steffen Radochla, Team Wiesenhof

9. James Van Landschoot, Landbouwkrediet – Colnago

10. Mahdi Sohrabi, Iran

11. Enrico Grigoli, Domina Vacanze

12. Takashi Miyazawa, Bridgestone Anchor

13. Matnur Matnur, Wismilak

14. Jens Renders, Mrbookmaker.Com – Sports Tech

15. Julian Dean, Credit Agricole

16. Gregory Habeaux, Landbouwkrediet – Colnago

17. Johan Verstrepen, Landbouwkrediet – Colnago

18. Ryan Cox, Team Barloworld

19. Dariusz Baranowski, Liberty Seguros

20. Antonio Bucciero, Acqua & Sapone – Adria Mobil

21. Geoffroy Lequatre, Credit Agricole

22. Md. Jasmin Ruslan, Proton T-Bikes

23. Valery Kobzarenko, Acqua & Sapone – Adria Mobil

24. Dean Downing, GBR

25. Giuseppe Palumbo, Acqua & Sapone – Adria Mobil

26. Thomas White, GBR

27. Daniele Di Biase, Colombia – Selle Italia

28. Cesar Grajales, Navigators Insurance

29. Jurgen Van De Walle, Landbouwkrediet – Colnago

30. Marlon Perez Arango, Colombia – Selle Italia

31. Nicolas Vogondy, Credit Agricole

32. Mark Walters, Navigators Insurance

33. Saul Raisin, Credit Agricole

34. Tom Southam, Team Barloworld

35. Leonardo Scarselli, Colombia – Selle Italia

36. Raffaele Illiano, Colombia – Selle Italia

37. Matej Jurco, Domina Vacanze

38. Jose Rujano, Colombia – Selle Italia

39. Alireza Haghi, Iran

40. Tiaan Kannemeyer, Team Barloworld

41. Nuno Ribeiro, Liberty Seguros

42. Hassan Maleki, Iran

43. Daud Md. Fuad, Malaysia

44. Fallanie Ali, Proton T-Bikes

45. Paidi O:brien, Ireland

46. Miyataka Shimizu, Bridgestone Anchor

47. Hamad Md. Mahazir, Malaysia

48. Rosli Nor Effandy, Malaysia

49. Suhardi Hassan, Proton T-Bikes

50. Md. Fauzah Lutfi, Proton T-Bikes

51. Peter Wuyts, Mrbookmaker.Com – Sports Tech

52. Claudio Astolfi, Acqua & Sapone – Adria Mobil

53. Kristian House, GBR

54. Rodney Green, Team Barloworld

55. Luca Solari, Domina Vacanze

56. Ralf Grabsch, Team Wiesenhof

57. Cristian Bonfanti, Domina Vacanze

58. Julian Winn, GBR

59. Rene Andrle, Liberty Seguros

60. Zbigniew Piatek, Action

61. René Joergensen, Team Barloworld

62. David Mccann, Ireland

63. Frederic Gabriel, Mrbookmaker.Com – Sports Tech

64. Sven Renders, Landbouwkrediet – Colnago

65. Koen De Kort, Liberty Seguros

66. Md. Razali Shahrulneeza, Malaysia

67. Chris Newton, GBR

68. Samai Samai, Wismilak

69. Tom Danielson, Discovery Channel

70. Ruggero Borghi, Domina Vacanze

71. Patrick Mccarty, Discovery Channel

72. Kurt Van De Wouwer, Mrbookmaker.Com – Sports Tech

73. Geert Verheyen, Landbouwkrediet – Colnago

74. Marcin Osinski, Action

75. Eric Leblacher, Credit Agricole

76. Wawan Setyobudi, Wismilak

77. Alessandro D:andrea, Acqua & Sapone – Adria Mobil

78. Yannick Talabardon, Credit Agricole

79. Martin Muller, Team Wiesenhof

80. Sergio Ghisalberti, Domina Vacanze

81. Piotr Chmielewski, Action

82. David Mckenzie, Wismilak

83. Jens Heppner, Team Wiesenhof

84. Robert Hayles, GBR

85. Roger Aitken, Ireland

86. Enrico Poitschke, Team Wiesenhof

87. Tonton Susanto, Wismilak

88. Christophe Le Mevel, Credit Agricole

89. Benjamin John Day, Mrbookmaker.Com – Sports Tech

90. Trent Wilson, Colombia – Selle Italia

91. Mirko Allegrini, Ceramica Panaria – Navigare

92. Nathan O:neill, Navigators Insurance

93. Michael Barry, Discovery Channel

94. Abd. Nasir Md. Yusof, Malaysia

95. Moezeddin Seyed, Iran

96. Christopher Bradford, Wismilak

97. Paul Griffin, Ireland

98. Jeffry Louder, Navigators Insurance

99. Stephen Gallagher, Ireland

100. Paul Manning, GBR

101. Camille Bouquet, Mrbookmaker.Com – Sports Tech

102. Shinichi Fukushima, Bridgestone Anchor

103. Adi Wibowo, Wismilak

104. Takehiro Mizutani, Bridgestone Anchor

105. Jesus Hernandez, Liberty Seguros

106. Ahad Kazemi, Iran

107. Ghader Mizbani, Iran

108. Julio Alberto Perez Cuapio, Ceramica Panaria – Navigare

109. Yasutaka Tashiro, Bridgestone Anchor

110. Koji Fukushima, Bridgestone Anchor

111. Jorg Jaksche, Liberty Seguros

112. Adam Wadecki, Action

113. Michael Creed, Discovery Channel

114. David Kopp, Team Wiesenhof

115. Nico Sijmens, Landbouwkrediet – Colnago

116. Lars Wackernagel, Team Wiesenhof

117. Russell Van Hout, Colombia – Selle Italia, 01:34

118. Leonardo Moser, Acqua & Sapone – Adria Mobil, 01:34

119. Yong Li Ng, Proton T-Bikes, 01:48

120. David Plaza Romero, Team Barloworld, 01:48

121. Antonio Cruz, Discovery Channel

122. Houssein Askari, Iran

123. Denis Bertolini, Acqua & Sapone – Adria Mobil, 02:25

124. Kazimierz Stafiej, Action

125. Vassili Davidenko, Navigators Insurance, 02:48

126. Ramle Md. Rizal, Malaysia, 02:48

127. Razif Jaffar, Proton T-Bikes, 02:48

128. Shinji Suzuki, Bridgestone Anchor, 02:48

129. Musa Musairi, Malaysia, 04:10

130. Brett Lancaster, Ceramica Panaria – Navigare, 04:38

131. Fortunato Baliani, Ceramica Panaria – Navigare, 04:38

132. Joseba Beloki Dorronsoro, Liberty Seguros, 04:38

133. Hayden Roulston, Discovery Channel, 04:38

134. Bogdan Bondariew, Action, 04:38

135. Sean Lacey, Ireland, 05:33

136. Najmee Wan Mohammad, Proton T-Bikes, 05:33

137. Sergiy Matveyev, Ceramica Panaria – Navigare, 05:33

138. Fumiyuki Beppu, Discovery Channel