Road

In absence of favorites, Langkawi is wide open this year

The 10-day, 1251km Tour de Langkawi is set to start Friday, February6, on Malaysia’s resort island of Penang. Now in its ninth year, the Tour’s2004 course will follow a clockwise loop along the western coast of PeninsularMalaysia, offering a feast of sprint finishes with just three mountainousstages and two mountain-top finishes. Twenty teams of seven riders will contest the Tour, which boasts thefourth largest prize list in pro cycling. However, missing from the raceis any one overwhelming favorite, generating a consensus that it’s anyone’srace to win. Last year’s winner, American Tom

By Neal Rogers

Saturn was tops last year

Saturn was tops last year

Photo: AFP (file photo)

The 10-day, 1251km Tour de Langkawi is set to start Friday, February6, on Malaysia’s resort island of Penang. Now in its ninth year, the Tour’s2004 course will follow a clockwise loop along the western coast of PeninsularMalaysia, offering a feast of sprint finishes with just three mountainousstages and two mountain-top finishes.

Twenty teams of seven riders will contest the Tour, which boasts thefourth largest prize list in pro cycling. However, missing from the raceis any one overwhelming favorite, generating a consensus that it’s anyone’srace to win.

Last year’s winner, American Tom Danielson, took his biggest careervictory to date while riding for Saturn but now rides for the Italian Division1 Fassa Bortolo squad, as does last year’s second-place finisher and 2002winner Hernan Dario Munoz. Danielson may not be attending the race, buthe isn’t far from the minds of those involved with the race; his likenessis spread across each and every race document as part of the 2004 racelogo.

With 1999 and 2001 overall winner Paolo Lanfranchi also not in attendance,the race lacks a returning champion. However, returning to Malaysia istwo-time world cross-country champion Roland Green, who made waves in lastyear’s Tour, beating the likes of Lanfranchi, Munoz and Lampre’s GabrieleMissgalia. But misfortune struck when Green saw his chances for overallvictory vanish when he flatted during stage 6 at an inopportune moment— in a vicious crosswind —with just 14km remaining and was unable to rejointhe peloton.

While Green proved to be the strongest climber on the penultimate stage’s25km climb to Genting Highlands, he finished outside of the top-three overalland was forced to be content with the King of the Mountains jersey.

Canada’s looking pretty strong
In Malaysiato provide television commentary with partner Paul Sherwen, veteran raceannouncer Phil Liggett agreed that there are no clear-cut overall favorites,however he gave the nod to the Canadian National squad of Green, Eric Wohlberg,Charles Dionne, Dominique Perras, Cory Lange, Peter Wedge and AlexandreLavallee.

“Canada’s looking pretty strong,” Liggett said, agreeing that had Greennot flatted last year, he may well have won the race. “If Green’s goingwell again this year, he could take it.”

As for Green, who saw his 2003 season spiral downward following a crashat the Tour de Georgia while riding for the U.S. Postal Service, he’s holdinghis cards close to his chest.

“We’ll see,” Green answered, when asked if he’s in similar form to lastyear’s Tour. “I haven’t raced since September, but I have put in some serioustraining miles, about the same as last year.”

Solely representing the United States is the Health Net Pro CyclingTeam presented by Maxxis. As with many of the teams in Malaysia, it willbe the team’s first race together as a new squad, but Health Net couldvery well be the most underrated team in the Tour.

Led by Canadian Gord Fraser, winner of Langkawi’s sprinter’s championjersey in 2000, Health Net has overall GC riders in Danny Pate, John Lieswynand Scott Moninger, who has not raced in nearly 18 months since acceptinga one-year suspension after testing positive for norandrolone, a resulthe maintains came from a contaminated food supplement.

It seems as though many in the international cycling community haveforgotten that Moninger, now 38, is still a feared climber and capableGC contender. Moninger, a resident of Boulder, Colorado, has prepared himselffor the heat and humidity by riding his stationary trainer in his home’ssteam room. Riding in supporting roles for Health Net will be Greg Henderson,Brice Jones and Michael Sayers.

Other overall favorites include Italian Wladimir Belli (Lampre), 2003Giro d’Italia King of the Mountains Freddy Gonzalez (Columbia Selle Italia)and Belgian Dave Bruylandts (Chocolade Jacques-Wincor Nixdorf.)

Challenging for sprint victories will be Fraser, three-time stage winnerlast year Luciano Pagliarini (Lampre), Australian Graeme Brown (Panaria),Jan Koerts (Chocolade Jacques-Wincor Nixdorf) and Italian Ivan Quaranta(Formaggi Pinzolo Fiave.)

In years past, the Tour de Langkawi has been noted by its early timetrial, dictating the race leader, and its sole mountaintop finish atopthe 25km long, steep Genting Highlands climb. But in an effort to ensurethat the leader’s jersey changes hands everyday, the time trial has beenmoved to stage 5 and a mountaintop stage will fall early on in the Tour,during stage 2’s 4400-foot Tanah Rata climb in Cameron Highlands.“All these years the focus has been on the notorious climb to Gentingwhere the Tour is won or lost,” said Tour executive chairman Datuk WanLokman Dato’ Paduka Wan Ibrahim. “However, in 2004, there will be muchmore in store for fans.”Race organizer Abdullah Kamal Shafii concurred. “We’ve revised the wholeroute to make it an open affair,” he said, “where all riders stand a chanceto share the limelight and wear the coveted leader’s jersey.”Stage 1 will see the peloton cross the 13.5km Penang Bridge into Taiping,a pancake flat stage for the sprinters. Following stage 2’s 151km rideto a mountaintop finish, stage 3 sees an elevation gain of nearly 2500feet in just over 20km before a fast descent into the town of Pahang, 35kmfrom the summit.Stage 4, from Hulu Kelang to Tampin, dishes up 148km of flat terrainwith a few rollers thrown in before the stage 5 time trial in the historicaltown of Melaka, an 18km affair with virtually no elevation gain. Stages6, 7 and 8 will again be designed for the sprinters, giving the climberstime to rest before the Genting Highlands climb on Saturday, February 14.While nothing’s assured in bike racing, it’s a fair bet that the GCleader after stage 9 will take overall honors; stage 10, an 80km, 12-lapcircuit race at the Dataran Merdeka in Kuala Lumpur, is unlikely to shakeup the GC.
2004 Tour de Langkawi Team Rosters (as of Feb.5)LAMPRE (ITA)
Pagliarini, Luciano (BRA)
Belli, Wladimir (SVI)
Carrara, Matteo (ITA)
Pinotti, Marco (ITA)
Cortinovis, Alessandro (ITA)
Barbero, Sergio (ITA)
Scotto D’Abusco,Michele( ITA)
Manager : Maurizio PiovaniCHOCOLADE JACQUES-WINCOR-NIXDORF (BEL)
Koerts, Jan (NED)
Bruylandts, Dave (BEL)
Ardila, Mauricio (COL)
Aranaga, Andoni (ESP)
Piatek, Zbigniew (POL)
Van Velzen, Jan (NED)
Van de Walle, Jurgen (BEL)
Manager: Johan CapiotCOLOMBIA SELLE ITALIA (COL)
Gonzalez, Fredy (COL)
Marin, Ruber (COL)
Mesa, Huberlino (COL)
Perez, Marlon (COL)
Rujano, Jose (VEN)
Van Hout, Russel (AUS)
Leyton, Libardo (COL)
Manager : Gianni SavioDE NARDI (ITA)
Gasparre, Graziano (ITA)
Gobbi, Michele (ITA)
Grigoli, Enrico (ITA)
Miorin, Devis (ITA)
Nuritdinov, Rafael (UZB)
Rizzi, Antoni (ITA)
Wegelius, Charly (GBR)
Manager:Oscar PellicioliPALMANS-COLLSTROP (BEL)
Hunt, Jeremy (GBR)
Van de Wouwer, Kurt (BEL)
Gabriel, Federic (FRA)
Wuyts, Peter (BEL)
Van Haecke, Michel (BEL)
Vanderaerden, Gert (BEL)
Day, Ben (AUS)
Manager: Luc LanduytCERAMICHE PANARIA-MARGRES (ITA)
Baliani, Fortunato (ITA)
Brown, Graeme (AUS)
Perfetto, Filippo (ITA)
Matveyev, Sergey (UKR)
Gilioli, Fabio (ITA)
Bongiorno, Ruben (ARG)
Lancaster, Brett (AUS)
Manager: Roberto ReverberiFORMAGGI PINZOLO FIAVE (ITA)
Quaranta, Ivan (ITA)
Manzoni, Mario (ITA)
Serina, Corrado (ITA)
Sulpizi,Giulini (ITA)
Gualdi, Domenico (ITA)
Cappe, Matteo (ITA)
Laverde Jiminez, Felipe (COL)
Manager: Stefano GiulianiRELAX-BODYSOL (ESP)
Florencio Cabre, Xavier (ESP)
Duenas Nevado, Moises (ESP)
Blanco Gil, Santiago (ESP)
Laguna,Garcia Oscar (ESP)
Guerra Garcia, Hector (ESP)
Burgos Rojo, Nacor (ESP)
Van Summeren, Johan (BEL)
Manager : Jesus Suarez CuevasTEAM BARLOWORLD (RSA)
George, David (RSA)
Degano, Enrico (ITA)
Sullivan, Sean (AUS)
Cox, Ryan (RSA)
Green, Jock (RSA)
Perry, James Lewis (RSA)
Kannemayer,Tiaan (RSA)
Manager: Alberto ElliHEALTH NET PRO, PRESENTED BY MAXXIS (USA)
Fraser, Gordon (CAN)
Henderson, Greg (NZL)
Jones, Brice (USA)
Pate, Danny (USA)
Lieswyn, John (USA)
Moninger, Scott (USA)
Sayers, Mike (USA)
Manager : Jeff CorbettBERT STORY-PIELS (NED)
Van der Bergh, Germ (NED)
Van Uden, Dennis  (NED)
Loos, Coen (NED)
Honig, Reinier (NED)
Lenferink, Jasper (NED)
Van der Stelt, Jarko (NED)
Kornegoor, Arne (NED)
Manager : Bob BukerTEAM WISMILAK (INA)
Susanto, Tonton (INA)
Sama’i, Sama’i (INA)
Setyobudi, Wawan (INA)
Matnur, Matnur (INA)
Pedersen, Anno (NED)
Guyton,Scott (NZ)
Bradford,Christophe (Aus)
Manager: Benny HendartoJAPAN (JPN)
Fukushima, Shinichi (JPN)
Abe, Yoshiyuki (JPN)
Manabe, Kazuyuki (JPN)
Okazaki, Kazuya (JPN)
Iijima, Makoto (JPN)
Kano, Tomoya (JPN)
Tashiro, Yasutaka (JPN)
Manager: Akira AsadaCANADA (CAN)
Green, Roland (CAN)
Wohlberg, Eric (CAN)
Perras, Dominique (CAN)
Dionne, Charles (CAN)
Lange, Cory (CAN)
Wedge, Peter (CAN)
Lavallee, Alexandre (CAN)
Manager: Jacky HardyIRAN (IRAN)
Maleki Mizan, Hassan (IRI)
Kazemi Sarai, Ahad (IRI)
Mizbani Iranagh, Ghader (IRI)
Saeidi Tanha, Abas (IRI)
Rajabloo, Mohammad (IRI)
Zargari, Amir (IRI)
Chehrzad, Saeid (IRI)
Manager: Farhad YavarianCHINA (CHN)
Wang Guozhang (CHN)
Luo Jianshi (CHN)
Zheng Xiaohai (CHN)
Li Fuyu (CHN)
Zhu Yongbiao (CHN)
Shao Xiaojun (CHN)
Jiang Xueli (CHN)
Manager: Li NianxiSOUTH AFRICA (RSA)
Odendaal, Jaco (RSA)
McLeod, Ian (RSA)
Wentzel, Rudolf (RSA)
Ball, Jamie (RSA)
White, Nicolas (RSA)
Maartens, Jeremy (RSA)
MacDonald, Neil (RSA)
Manager: Tony HardingIRELAND (IRE)
McCann, David (IRE)
O’Loughlin, David (IRE)
Deignan, Philip (IRE)
Lynch, Denice (IRE)
Griffin, Paul (IRE)
Moriaty, Eugene (IRE)
Barry, Tim (IRE)
Manager: Frank Campbell