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By Jason Sumner, VeloNews.com
For the second time in as many years Jose Serpa was first man across the line at the top of the hors categorie Genting Highlands stage, but the Colombian Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni rider couldn’t make up enough time to unseat the overall race leader Anthony Charteau.
Charteau did just what he needed to hold his place atop the overall standings, surrendering 3:36 to Serpa on Friday’s 83.4km stage 8 run from Shah Alam to Genting. With a 4:48 advantage over Serpa coming in, Charteau (Crédit Agricole) holds a comfortable 1:02 advantage with just two stages remaining in the 12th running of Malaysia’s national tour.
“It was a hard stage but everything went as expected,” said Charteau, heretofore better known as a domestique than a stage race threat. “We knew [Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni] would attack because that’s what they were supposed to do. I just kept my own pace and didn’t go beyond my limits. I’m confident that my team can do what it needs to do in the next two days to defend the jersey.”
No matter what happens Saturday and Sunday, Serpa and his team can take solace in the big payday they’ve earned here in Malaysia. Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni has now won five of eight stages, holds a nearly insurmountable lead in the points and KoM competitions, and has two riders in the top three of GC. But that doesn’t mean Gianni Savio’s six-man bunch is conceding the race just yet.
“For us the Tour de Langkawi is not finished,” the Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni team boss said. “Tomorrow there is another hard stage and we will try again. Attacking is in our blood and we will do it again tomorrow.”
It’s unlikely Savio’s words are more than just that, but stage 9’s 173km trip from Putrajaya to Seremban does include three rated climbs, including the category 2 ascent of Bukit Tangga. But that summit comes at the 137.8km mark, leaving Crédit Agricole plenty of time to keep things under control.
“Today was the day,” contended Crédit Agricole team manager Denis Roux. “Tomorrow we have a strong team to control.”
Friday’s meaningful action commenced at the first sprint spot, 17.2km into the stage. There, Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni sent Colombian Fabio Duarte off the front in pursuit of an early breakaway of seven riders that were not a factor on GC. That lead group was down to five with 24km to go, and included Tiaan Kannemeyer (South Africa), Sergey Kolesnikov (Unibet.com), Sandy Casar (Francaise des Jeux), Sergiy Matveyev (Ceramiche Panaria), and Gene Bates (SouthAustralia.com).
“Our plan was to attack right at the beginning of the climb,” explained Savio. “First we send Duarte, then [Walter] Pedraza and finally Serpa. Of course it’s difficult to take that much time back, but hey we take some.”
Indeed, following Duarte’s move, Pedraza took off with about 20km to go, hooking up with Unibet.com’s Jose Rujano and Ag2r’s Sylvain Calzati. Calzati didn’t last long, but Rujano and Pedraza quickly caught the break and went straight though it.
Finally with about 15km to go Serpa made his move, drawing South Africa’s David George and Russian Pavel Brutt (Tinkoff Credit Systems) out of the peloton’s remnants. At that point the gap to the yellow jersey group was only 40 seconds, and Serpa easily bridged across to his teammate and Rujano — a former teammate.
“I’m sure those guys were collaborating,” offered George who ended up fourth at 2:25 after falling off Serpa’s pace. “I don’t think Rujano had the legs to win the stage but he definitely helped them take a little time. I just missed Serpa’s wheel when he punched it. After that I just needed to ride my own pace.”
From there it all came down to Charteau. Once you start the climb up Genting there’s not much teammates can do for you, and most of Charteau’s had popped off the back by then anyway.
“When I came off at about 4km to go he was all alone,” reported American Timmy Duggan, who ended up 24th at 6:39. “[Charteau] was giving everything. I don’t know if he’d normally be that fast, but when you have the jersey you get that extra motivation.”
Slowly the time gap started to expand. Serpa was gunning hard now, first dropping Rujano and then Pedraza. With 8.1km to go the difference was 1:50. Then 2:30. Then 2:37. But Serpa was running out of real estate and Charteau was hanging tough.
“Of course you are worried when you see a gap grow to three minutes,” admitted Crédit Agricole’s Roux. “But the whole team did very well and Anthony finished the work.”
The final accounting had Serpa home first in 2:25:49, with Pedraza following at 1:16, then Rujano at 1:44. As the seconds ticked by, Serpa sat on a curb 50 meters from the finish line and waited. But the wait wasn’t long enough. Charteau slipped across the line in 10th. The yellow jersey was still his.
Race NotesWho’s that? – Lost in the chase for the GC were several strong efforts by lesser-known riders. Most noteworthy were teammates Jay Crawford and Ghader Mizbani (both Giant Asia), who finished fourth and fifth on Friday. That pushed Mizbani into the lead of the overall Asian category, and lifted him to sixth in the main GC, 4:14 back of Charteau.
Crawford, who hails from Tasmania and started his racing career as a mountain biker, is one spot higher in fifth at 4:05. It’s the second recent strong showing for the 23-year old, who took the overall win at Thailand’s Tour of Siam last month.
“I had an illness in 2006 and didn’t race at all,” Crawford said. “After that I was left with nothing, so I wrote to [Giant Asia] and they picked me up. It’s worked out really well.”
Mission accomplished — sort of – It was a mixed day for the lone American team racing at the Tour de Langkawi. Slipstream entered the day with two riders — Michael Lange and Timmy Duggan — in the top 16 and was hoping both could move into the top 10. But neither could keep the pace up Genting. Lange ended up 18th at 4:30, with Duggan back in 24th at 6:39. Duggan did manage to hang with the yellow jersey group the longest, only getting dropped with about 4km to go.
“Every race I try to go as long as I can until I blow,” explained Duggan, who is now 21st overall at 7:53. “Someday I’ll be able to hang in there the whole way. I was just dragging and dragging. It doesn’t take much. If I just let it go to my head that I’m hurting then I’m done.”
Lange took a more measured approach then Duggan, but lost too much ground early on.
“I think it went okay. We had three guys right up there,” said Lange referring to third teammate Huub Duyn, who finished the Genting stage 18th at 6:59. “But that heat at the base was killer. I couldn’t hang with the front group. It was just too much. Once it cooled off I felt more comfortable and settled into a rhythm. It’s not quite the front group but we are getting there.”
The Slipstream riders opted to use 27-tooth rear cassettes and Duggan said he spent plenty of time in the easier gear.
Ins and outs – With sustained pitches of 20 percent, Genting figured to cull the 124-rider field that started the stage. In the end a dozen riders finished outside the time cut, which was set at 21:50 behind Serpa. Among those eliminated was Slipstream’s Brad Huff, who was 115th at 23:53.
Four-time stage winner Alberto Loddo (Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni) also flirted with the butcher’s block, but made it to the finish 19:14 back of Serpa, crossing the line hand in hand with the race’s other top sprinter Maximiliano Richeze (Ceramiche Panaria).
Loddo’s teammate Pedraza moved into the KoM points lead after placing second on the stage.
Stage 8 (Shah Alam to Genting Highlands – 84km)
1. Jose Serpa (Col), Serramenti PVC, 2:25:49
2. Walter Pedraza (Col), Serramenti PVC, 2:27:05
3. Jose Rujano (Vz), Unibet.com, 2:27:33
4. David George (RSA), South Africa, 2:28:14
5. Jay Crawford (Aus), Giant AIS Racing Team, 2:28:40
6. Ghader Mizbani (Iran), Giant AIS Racing Team, 2:28:49
7. Yoann Le Boulanger (F), Equipe Bouyges, 2:29:10
8. Francesco Bellotti (I), Crédit Agricole, 2:29:17
9. Yokihiro Doi (Jap), Skil Shimano, 2:29:20
10. Anthony Charteau (F), Crédit Agricole, 2:29:25Overall
1. Anthony Charteau (F), Crédit Agricole, 26:42:37
2. Jose Serpa (Col), Serramenti PVC, 26:43:39
3. Walter Pedraza (Col), Serramenti PVC, 26:44:11
4. David George (RSA), South Africa, 26:46:16
5. Jay Crawford (Aus), Giant AIS, 26:46:42
6. Ghader Mizbani (Iran), GIANT AIS, 26:46:51
7. Yokihiro Doi (Jap), Skil Shimano, 26:47:20
8. Hossein Askari (Iran), Giant AIS, 26:47:31
9. Pavel Brutt (Rus), Tinkoff Credit Systems, 26:47:45
10. Yoann Boulanger (F), 26:47:45Br>
[nid:37423]CURRENT JERSEY HOLDERSYellow (Tour Leader) – Anthony Charteau (F), Crédit AgricoleGreen (Sprint Competition) – Alberto Loddo (I), Serramenti PVC DiquigiovanniPolka Dot (King of the mountains) – Walter Pedraza (Col), Serramenti PVC DiquigiovanniBlue (Asian rider) – Ghader Mizbani (Iran), Giant AIS Racing Team