By Jason Sumner, VeloNews Associate Editor
You won’t find a more bizarre place for a finish-line, and if you happened to be in the outdoor lobby of the First World Hotel in Malaysia’s Genting Highlands, you won’t soon see a better finish.
Following the brutal hors categorie climb up to the Las Vegas-style resort, Colombia’s Hernan Dario Munoz slipped away from South Africa’s David George in the last 100 meters of the 133.3-kilomoter trip from Kuala Lumpur to Genting, taking a 4-second win in Stage 9 of the 2002 Tour de Langkawi on Saturday.
Munoz also managed to put 2 minutes, 29 seconds on Mapei Quick Step’s Robbie Hunter, more than enough to snatch the yellow jersey away from Hunter, who had owned the overall lead since the race’s opening stage time trial back on February 1st. Munoz is now atop the standings by 40 seconds over Hunter, a lead that’s almost certainly safe with only Sunday’s 75.6-kilometer criterium left in the 10-day, 1310km race.
George, a national team rider who once rode for U.S. Postal, leapt from eighth to third overall, at 1:52.
“It was just too steep at the end,” said George of the uphill finishing stretch. “I used up all my energy catching back on after he attacked me at the 3k mark. I didn’t have anything left for the finish.”
As for Munoz, who had entered the day 1:59 in arrears of Hunter, things turned out just as he had planned. “Even though I was behind starting today, I was confident I could get the time back,” said the 28-year-old Munoz, who’s in his first year with the Colombia-Selle Italia team. “I knew Hunter had been riding well and his team is strong, but my team is strong too. I have to thank them for working so hard to get me to the foot of the climb and especially Ruber for pacing me up to the front.”
Indeed, Munoz owed a big thank you to teammate Ruber Alveiro Marin. The 33-year-old had forced the action early in the climb, breaking away from small chase group, then catching and dropping the runaway. Then, after Munoz dropped Hunter and several other GC contenders, he hooked up with Marin, who then paced Munoz to within five kilometers of the summit.
Munoz did the rest, steadily pulling away from Hunter, until he became the leader on the road just 3 kilometers from the finish.
“I’m not disappointed at all,” said Hunter, who will now wear the green jersey. “If you had told me I would end up sixth in the Genting stage I would have thought that was awesome. This has been an amazing tour for me.”
Among the others who weren’t able to hang with Munoz were Paolo Lanfranchi (Alexia Alluminio), David Canada (Mapei-Quick Step), and Canadian Ryder Hesjedal. Lanfranchi won this stage and the overall at last year’s TDL, but settled for ninth Saturday, and is now eighth overall, at 5:56.
Canada, a popular pick as Mapei’s best hope for Genting, wound up eighth and is now sixth overall. And Hesjedal stayed near the yellow jersey group in the early part of the climb, but couldn’t hang on all the way.
“I fell out of the group when they did an exceleration and I just couldn’t catch back on,” he said. “I’m still really happy with what I did here.”
Hesjedal wound up 17th, 4:48 behind Munoz, and now sits 13th in the overall standings.
The TDL concludes Sunday with Stage 10’s criterium in Kuala Lumpur. The 15-turn downtown circuit is 6.3 kilometers start to finish. Riders will do 12 laps.
— The were some major shake-ups in several categories, including the team standings were South Africa and Colombia-Selle Italia moved up to second and third overall. Mapei still has a commanding grasp on the top spot.
Meanwhile the KoM jersey changed hands, with Marin taking over for Japan’s Koji Fukushima. Marin finished third on Saturday, while Fukushima had a disastrous day, coming across the line in 109th, more than 21 minutes behind the leader.
Tonton Susanto held on to the best Asian blue jersey. He had been considered one of the outside favorites for Genting, but finished 27th, at 8:28. Still it was enough to remain top Asian
— Unlike last year, when a slew of riders who had been high in the overall coming into the Genting stage but were eliminated for losing too much time, this year all the 134 finishers crossed the line safely inside the official time limit. Two riders did drop out however, meaning the list of expected starters has been whittled from 136 to 134.
— The ultra-tacky resort at Genting Highlands is the site of Malaysia’s only casino. There’s also an amusement park, a large artificial lake, a golf course and a cable car ride. Its best quality is its weather, though. Unlike the lowlands, which have been mercilessly hot during the TDL, Genting gets cool enough for a sweater in the evening.
— With the top of the overall standings unlikely to change, there will not be a European in the top three. When was the last time that happened at a big stage race?
TOUR DE LANGKAWI, Malaysia. February 1-10, 2002
Stage 9: Kuala Lumpur to Genting Highlands
1. Hernan Dario Munoz (Col), Colombia-Selle Italia, 133.3km in 3:39:43 (36.40 kph); 2. David George (SA), South African National, 0:04; 3. Ruber Alveiro (Col), Colombia-Selle Italia, at 1:25; 4. Christophe Le Mevel (F), Credit Agricole, at 1:52; 5. Antoni Rizzi (I), Mobilvetta Design, at 2:23; 6. Robert Hunter (SA), Mapei-Quick Step, at 2:29; 7. Rene Joergensen (Dk), Team Fakta, at 2:53; 8. David Canada (Sp), Mapei-Quick Step, 3:16; 9. Paolo Lanfranchi (I), Alexia Alluminio, at 3:36; 10. Stive Vermaut (B), Lotto-Adecco, at 3:42; Also; 14. Andrea Tafi (I), Mapei-Quick Step, at 4:17; 17. Ryder Hesjedal (Can), Canadian National, at 4:48; 25. Domininque Perras (Can), Canadian National, 8:06; 27. Tonton Susanto (Idn), Telekom Malaysia, at 8:28; 62. Eric Wohlberg (Can), Canadian National, at 14:10; 69. Kam-Po Wong (Hkg), Telekom Malaysia, at 15:36; 90. Jens Voigt (G), Credit Agricole, at 18:25; 103. Josh Hall (Can), Canadian National, 20:14; 133. Glan Rendall (Can), Canadian National, at 26:37;
Overall standings; 1. Hernan Dario Munoz (Col), Colombia-Selle Italia, 1237km in 28:21:41; 2. Robbie Hunter (SA), Mapei Quick Step, at 0:40; 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 9:45; 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 23:06; 39. Eric Wohlberg (Can), Canadian National, at 30:46; 58.Jens Voigt (G), Credit Agricole, at 36:36; 101. Josh Hall (Can), Canadian National, at 52:13; 134. Glan Rendall (Can), Canadian National, at 1:35:21