By Jason Sumner, VeloNews Associate Editor
With Kuala Lumpur’s mighty Petronas Towers shadowing the course, the 2002 Tour de Langkawi concluded with Sunday’s 75.6-kilometer criterium. When racing was done Australian Graeme Brown had his second stage win, while Colombian Hernan Dario Munoz made it home safely in the bunch, winning the overall title of this 10-day, 1310-kilometer race in Malaysia.
Munoz first took the yellow jersey on Stage 9, the brutal climb up to the Genting Highlands. He had entered the day 1:59 behind then-leader Robbie Hunter (Mapei-Quick Step), but Munoz had a spectacular day on the hors categorie climb, putting 2:29 on Hunter to take over the overall lead. With only Stage 10’s criterium to go, Munoz’s win was all but assured.
“This will help grow the cycling tradition in Colombia,” said Munoz (Colombia-Selle Italia). “I hope I can come back next year to defend my title.”
Brown, meanwhile, earned a bit of redemption for his gaffe coming into the finish of Stage 8 in Petaling Jaya. On that day the Ceramiche Panaria rider had received a perfect leadout from his teammates, but lost his chance for the win when his left foot came out of his pedal on the final turn.
This time around his team’s plan had been to send Stage 3 winner Enrico Degano to the front, but coming into the finish straightaway Brown found himself there instead, and took off for home. He crossed the line in 1:41:50, the same time given to the next 68 riders.
“I’ve been feeling good in the long sprints,” he said. “This time I went early and managed to hold everybody off.”
Closest to Brown was the snake-bit Daniele Galli (Alexia Alluminio), who ended the TDL with two second-place finishes but no wins. Third place went to Hunter, concluding an outstanding 10 days of racing for the 24-year-old South African. Hunter ended the Tour second place overall, at 0:36, plus he won three stages, the green points jersey, and had 6 other top-6 finishes.
“I think some of my success came from the fact that the Europeans are still very early in their season,” the ever-modest Hunter said. “But obviously I’m still very happy with the way I rode. Even though I’ve never been much of a climber, I really dug deep yesterday and had a great ride.”
Sunday’s race began with the full convoy of cyclists on their bikes, plus more than 500 vehicles leaving the Kuala Lumpur suburb of Shah Alam and heading for downtown. The entire trip — which included a major highway — was on closed roads, giving the race convoy an unobstructed trip into what is traffic-jam hell on most days.
Once downtown racing commenced on the 15-turn, 6.3-kilometer circuit. The first lap was the unofficial farewell to Andrea Tafi ride, as the peloton let the 35-year-old Italian go a 100 meters off the front to receive acknowledgement from the sizeable crowd. Earlier in the day Tafi did a fun ride with more than 500 kids on the same course used in the afternoon. Tafi has said he won’t decide on retirement until the end of the season, but this was likely his last ride at the Tour de Langkawi.
Once the real racing commenced, Tafi was the greatest animator, breaking off a 15-second gap during the seventh of the race’s 12 laps. But the peloton was having none of it this time, and reeled Tafi and breakaway partner Moreno Di Biase back in by the middle of the eighth lap.
Two laps later a group of nine pulled off the front, but they too were unsuccessful, setting the stage for Brown’s win.
— One of the best stories to come out of this year’s TDL was the superb showing by the South African national team. Led by the third-place overall finish of David George, the green-and-yellow clad squad ended up second to Mapei in the overall team standings. Among the teams they beat were six from Division I. South Africa also ending up placing three riders in the top 20, with Daniel Spence 12th and Rodney Green 17th. George was also third in the KoM standings.
— Canadian mountain biker Ryder Hesjedal ended his successful debut in big-time road racing with 13th place overall finish, by far the best for a North American. Dominique Perras (iTeamNova.com) was next in 18th, at 13:42. Eric Wohlberg ended up 38th, at 30:46. Fellow Canadian Glan Randall was the last of the race’s finishers, in 128th overall at 1:36:54. All told 128 of 151 riders who started the race back on February 1st finished.
— The was no change with the TDL’s other two jerseys. Munoz’s teammate Ruber Alveiro Marin finished first in the KoM standings, while Indonesian Tonton Susanto won the blue jersey given to the top placed Asian rider. Susanto’s Telekom Malaysia team also won the top placed Asian team award, besting Japan by 37:01.
— Depending on who you ask, the Petronas Towers are the two tallest buildings in the world, measuring more than 1491 feet. The debate centers around the building’s masts, which provide the last 208 feet. Critics contend it’s unfair to count them when measuring the buildings’ height, and the U.S.-based Council on Tall Buildings says they qualify in only one of four categories. No matter how tall they are, though, the pair of towers provide a stunning sight, especially at night when they are completely lit up.
Malaysian’s take great pride in being No. 1 and have plans to build the world’s longest building as well.
TOUR DE LANGKAWI, Malaysia. February 1-10, 2002
Stage 10: Kuala Lumpur Criterium
1. Graeme Brown (Aus), Ceramiche Panaria, 75.6km in 1:41:50 (43.7kph); 2. Daniele Galli (I), Alexia Alluminio; 3. Robbie Hunter (SA), Mapei-Quick Step; 4. Moreno Di Biase (I), Mobilvetta Design; 5. Andrea Tafi (I), Mapei-Quick Step; 6. Bo Allan Andresen (Dk), Team Fakta; 7. Max Becker (Lux), Palmans-Collstrop; 8. Graeme Miller (NZ), Telekom Malaysia; 9. Shinri Suzuki (Jpn), Japanese National; 10. Andy Flickinger (F), Ag2r Prevoyance; Also; 22. Dominique Perras (Can), Canadian National; 30. Hernan Dario Munoz (Col), Colombia-Selle Italia; 35. Paolo Lanfranchi (I), Alexia Alluminio; 37. Eric Wohlberg (Can), Canadian National; 43. Ryder Hesjedal (Can), Canadian National; 53. Josh Hall (Can), Canadian National, all same time; 115. Glan Randall (Can), Canadian National, at 1:33; Overall standings; 1. Hernan Dario Munoz (Col), Colombia-Selle Italia, 1312.6km in 30:03:31; 2. Robbie Hunter (SA), Mapei Quick Step, at 0:36; 3. David George (SA), South African National, at 1:52; 4. Rene Joergensen (Dk), Team Fakta, at 3:50; 5. Mickael Pichon (F), Bonjour, at 4:42; 6. David Canada (Sp), Mapei-Quick Step, at 5:00; 7. Artour Babaitsev (Rus), Team Nürnberger, at 5:29; 8. Paolo Lanfranchi (I), Alexia Alluminio, at 5:56; 9. Ruber Alveiro Marin (Col), Colombia-Selle Italia, at 6:43; 10. Stive Vermaut (B), Lotto-Adecco, at 7:11; Also; 13. Ryder Hesjedal (Can), Canadian National, at 7:40; 15. Tonton Susanto (Idn), Telekom Malaysia, at 10:09; 18. Dominique Perras (Can), iTeamNova.com, at 13:42; 26. Andrea Tafi (I), Mapei-Quick Step, at 21:11; 27. Kam-Po Wong (Hkg), Telekom Malaysia, at 23:19; 38. Eric Wohlberg (Can), Canadian National, at 30:46; 60. Jens Voigt (G), Credit Agricole, at 38:09; 95. Josh Hall (Can), Canadian National, at 52:13; 128. Glan Rendall (Can), Canadian National, at 1:36:54