By Jason Sumner, VeloNews associate editor
A day after his Ceramica-Panaria teammate Graeme Brown grabbed the opening stage of the 2005 Tour de Langkawi, Argentine Ruben Bongiorno fired back with a win of his own on Saturday. And just as they did the day before, the pair of teammates went wheel to wheel all the way to the line, with Brown settling for runner-up status this time around.
“We’re just racing,” said Brown when asked if the pair had in any way planned their second 1-2 finish in as many days. “Usually if Ruben’s on my wheel and I go to early he wins. It’s not always the best option for me, but it works out for the team. If I make a mistake like I did today, Ruben can win. Today I just went a little early.”
Brown could take solace in the fact that the one-second time bonus he earned for taking third in the second sprint of the day, put him one second ahead of his teammate and in the yellow jersey for at least one more day.
Navigators Oleg Grishkine was third for the second day in a row, which left him fourth overall after two days, nine seconds back of Brown.
As for Bongiorno he let Brown do most of the talking, saying only that, “stages are my main objective. I’m not that concerned about any jersey.”
Saturday’s 171.6km stage was contested over a flat, north-to-south run from Kangar to Kepala Batas on a scorcher of a day in Southeast Asia. Temperatures climbed into the upper 90s during the 4:08:02 affair, and high humidity kept the pace at a mellow level.
“It was just those the two guys away for most of the day, which was really good,” admitted Navigators Nathan O’Neill. “It made the race really steady. Panaria just rode tempo all day. It was never very hard.”
Indeed, just moments after the peloton rolled out of the start town of Kangar, Malaysian pro Fallanie Ali (Proton T-Bikes) and Japan’s Takashi Miyazawa (Bridgestone) took off and spent most of the afternoon off the front earning some TV time for their regional sponsors. The pair would grow its advantage to nearly 10 minutes, before the steady pace of Panaria finally brought things back together. Another Bridgestone pro, Koji Fukushima, would also take a flyer. But his heroics were over with 5km to go, leaving another day to the sprinters.
“My guys really controlled it from the 10-15km mark,” said Brown. “We let it get out to about 10 minutes, and didn’t want it to get much further. But we really just rode the same pace all day.”
The steady, but admittedly easy, pace didn’t seem to bother the rest of the peloton. “It was a good thing we didn’t have to race too much, because the heat was pretty insane,” said Discovery’s Michael Barry. “After about two hours you really start to feel it. I don’t think there were any bottles left in the team car. I probably went through at least 10 myself.”
This was the last day the race will spend on the country’s more populous west coast for a while. Sunday the Malaysian national tour heads east and will stay there through the end of stage 6, before heading back towards the country’s largest city, Kuala Lumpur.
Beloki content for now
A day after losing more than four minutes to the field at the TdL opener on Langkawi Island, Spain’s Joseba Beloki was philosophical about its meaning. Beloki admitted that he was “surprised by the speed” on the opening day, but also said that overall he felt good.
“I’m not here to win the Tour de Langkawi,” he conceded. “There is a long season ahead.”
Casualty No. 2
For the second day in a row an American team lost a rider here in Malaysia. First to go was Navigators Hilton Clarke on Friday, and on Saturday Discovery Channel lost the services of Hayden Roulston, who like Clarke was having stomach issues.
Navigators O’Neill also said his stomach was acting up, but managed to fight through it. “My guts were a bit rough,” said O’Neill. “I was feeling really good at the start, but then I started feeling a bit weird after about 70km. Today was a good day to be sick because it was probably as easy as it’s going to get.”
Yellow (Overall): Graeme Brown (Aus), Ceramica-Panaria
Green (Points): Graeme Brown (Aus), Ceramica-Panaria
Polka Dot (KoM): Kristian House (GB), Great Britain
Blue (Top Asian): Takashi Miyazawa (Jpn), Bridgestone
NORTH AMERICAN UPDATE
Outside of the one-man losses to both American teams, the eight-rider North American contingent (Michael Barry, Michael Creed, Tony Cruz, Tom Danielson, Patrick McCarty (all Discovery), Jeff Louder, Mark Walters (both Navigators) and Saul Raisin (Credit Agricole) have lost no time outside of time bonuses. They are all at 0:17.
NEXT UP: Stage 3 — Gerik to Tanah Merah, 172.5km
This is the longest and arguably one of the toughest stages. The climbers will have a chance to flex their muscles on the two Category 1 climbs over the Titiwangsa Range that leads the race to the east coast of the Malaysian peninsula. The first climb peaks at 580 meters, while the second rises to 1070km.