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Guardini takes his second win in Langkawi

Zabriskie feels the heat, but holds lead, Danielson on the ropes

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PARIT SULONG – Twenty four hours after winning the stage into Melaka, Italian sprinter Andrea Guardini was once again the star performer on today’s third stage of the Tour de Langkawi. The Italian remained in position on a brief drag inside the final 500 meters, then kicked hard on the slight downhill to the line in Parit Sulong.

Garmin – Barracuda’s Raymond Kreder tried to get past him, but Guardini was too strong. He punched the air in celebration of what is his seventh stage victory in two years, and increased his grip on the blue points classification jersey.

Kreder took second, with Malaysian favourite Anuar Manan (Champion System) netting third.

The sprint happened after a long distance break was hauled back inside the final twenty kilometers. The last to persist were Shinichi Fukushima (Terrengganu Cycling Team) and Taiji Nishitani (Aisan Racing Team), who had won into Parit Sulong two years ago.

However the main field was too strong, its chase paving the way for the big gallop to the line.

“There was a king of the mountains prize with ten kilometers to go,” Guardini said after the finish.  “Colnago tried to make the race hard, they tried to stay in the bunch, leaving me behind. But my team got me back and, like always, they were trying hard to do exactly what I wanted. I can savor their good job.”

Stage one time trial winner Dave Zabriskie suffered in the heat like the rest of the peloton, but had no other problems and finished in the main bunch. He continues in the yellow jersey of race leader, maintaining his one minute lead over Adam Phelan and one minute ten on the Phelan’s Drapac Cycling team-mate Darren Lapthorne.

“It was crazy hot out there today – it’s hot at the Tour, but there’s a humidity as well that’s very hard. It’s tough on the body, but its also hard to breathe,” Zabriskie said.  “This is my first race and I’m still setting into it, but hopefully I’ll be okay by Genting.”

His team-mate Tom Danielson, who started the day fourth overall, fell heavily close to the end and was last across the line.

He finished seven minutes 40 seconds behind Guardini and the peloton, but because the incident happened inside the final three kilometres, he was credited with the same time as the other riders and maintains his high general classification position.

He said on Twitter afterwards that he had very bad road rash on his right hand side, but was otherwise okay.

Aggressive beginning to stage 

All 129 finishers from yesterday lined out for this morning’s start of the third stage in Melaka, with the riders who went down in crashes yesterday all able to continue. That list of fallen riders includes second place overall, Adrian Phelan, who received stitches to his leg but was otherwise not too badly affected.

Like Danielson today, his crash yesterday fortunately took place inside the final three kilometers, thus ensuring he didn’t lose time to the other GC contenders.

Early on, Shinichi Fukushima (Terrengganu Cycling Team) and Suhardi Hassan (Malaysian national team) went clear, but were reeled in. A few more riders then tried their luck, but everything was together twenty kilometres into the 187.6 kilometre stage.

Almost immediately, though, four riders clipped away and started building a solid lead. The group was comprised of RTS Sport rider Alex Coutts, a persistent Fukushima, Ahmad Lutfi M. Fauzan and Taiji Nishitani (Aisan Racing Team); the latter was particularly motivated, as he won into today’s finishing town two years ago with a perfectly timed sprint.

After 31 kilometres of racing, the quartet out front were forty seconds clear of Xue Ming Xing (Max Success Sports) and Wijaya Endra (Indonesia), who were trying to get across. The peloton was one minute 37 seconds back and losing ground.

Zabriskie’s Garmin-Barracuda team was setting the pace and initially gave the break some leeway. After one hour of racing, 43.5 kilometers covered, the peloton was four and a half minutes back; the two chasers were two minutes down, and thus looking highly unlikely to get across.

The primes begin:

There were a total of three intermediate sprints and one mountain prime on today’s mainly flat stage. The first of those was in Tangkak, 51.9 kilometers after the start and was taken by Fukushima ahead of Fauzan, Nishitani and Coutts.

At that point, the two chasers were three minutes back and facing a hopeless cause to reach the front. The peloton was four minutes 15 seconds behind, and caught the duo soon afterwards. However, the group continued to lose time to the leaders, who surpassed five minutes’ advantage at the 69 kilometer point.

Nishitani had started the day three minutes and seven seconds back and so he was firmly race leader on the road. Fauzan won the intermediate sprint at Labis (km 119.3), but was pipped by Nishitani to take the next in Chaah (km 136).

The pendulum had swung, though, and the gap there was down to three minutes 50 seconds. Fauzan felt that the cause was a hopeless one and sat up, waiting for the bunch.

The others persisted and actually succeeded in extending their lead for some time, bringing the gap back up to four minutes and two seconds. However it started to drop again very soon after with 40 kilometers left, had nibbled it back to three minutes 20 seconds.

The advantage continued to erode and fell below a minute with over the twenty kilometers. Coutts was dropped soon after that, leaving Fukushima and Nishitani out front alone. The two Japanese gave it everything to try to stay away, but they were caught before the summit of the category four Bukit Belah, which hit its high point 10.9 kilometers from the end.

There, the Colnago team did what it could to put Guardini under pressure. However, he remained calm and stayed in contact, then moved back into position before blasting home for stage win number seven of his career.