Skil-Shimano’s Kittel sprints to stage 3 win at Langkawi
Skil-Shimano's Marcel Kittel’s bronze medal at last year’s U23 world championship time trial marked him as a big talent against the watch, but he showed his sprinting skills in taking the third stage of the Tour de Langkawi.
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The tall 22-year-old German powered into Sitiawan ahead of Malaysian favorite Anuar Manan (Terengganu ProAsia Cycling), with double-stage victor Andrea Guardini (Farnese Vini–Neri Sottoli) having to be satisfied with third place.
Kittel was delighted. “The first thing I have to say is a big thank you to my team. The leadout worked really well. I got the best position I could have for sprinting,” he said.
Coming into the race, his team was regarded as being likely to be led in the sprints by Kenny Van Hummel. However Kittel explained that there is dual leadership in place when it comes to the flat stages, with each rider being set to earn a chance.
“When I look at our team here, I see two good climbers and two good sprinters,” he said. “For sprinting, we have Kenny van Hummel and myself. Today Kenny said he preferred to help me out, so I had the privilege to go into the sprint with him and Koen de Kort in front of me. We don’t want to focus on only one person at Skil-Shimano. The whole team is really strong.”
Guardini was unable to keep his winning streak up, but he still had plenty of reason to celebrate. He retained both the yellow jersey of race leader and the blue jersey of best sprinter, and earned more time on the podium and more publicity for his sponsor.
“We wanted to keep this yellow jersey and this blue jersey and we managed to do it. I tried to win the sprint today, the team did everything for a bunch sprint finish but third is a good result as well,” he said.
Guardini knows that stage 4’s mountain stage to Cameron Highlands will likely bring an end to his time in yellow; he’s a sprinter, not a climber, and confirmed that he has no expectations of being on top of the leaderboard.
“Tomorrow it will be impossible to keep the yellow jersey. It will be too hard. But I’ll fight hard in the bonus sprints and I will try to make the time cut,” he said, confirming that his goal now is to keep the blue points jersey until the end of the race in Kuala Lumpur. Manan is battling well, though, and now has the same points total as his rival.
Stage 3 starts with a climb and a crash
The 144.9kilometer stage began in Taiping and quickly put pressure on the peloton. The fourth category climb of Bukit Gantang topped out just 17.3 kilometers after the drop of the flag and with a big crash taking place before the start of the slopes, several riders were left peeling themselves off the ground.
King of the Mountains competition leader Koen de Kort was determined to try to keep the red jersey and his Skil-Shimano team set a fast place on the climb. However an error was made, as he explained afterwards, and he wasn’t in the top three as a result.
“The tactic was for the team to lead on the climb and then leadout on the sprint, as I was told that the climb wasn’t too hard,” he said. “That is what we did, but it sort of went wrong … I got onto the front too early and they passed with me with such speed that I couldn’t get back onto the wheel any more. It was just a mistake from my end and it won’t happen again.”
The miscalculation saw the points going instead to Jonnatha Monsalve (Androni Giocattoi), Mehdi Sohrabi (Tabriz Petrochemical Team) and Puchong Sai-Udomsin (Terengganu ProAsia Cycling). Sohrabi’s gain was enough to move him even on points, and with various other factors being equal, the jersey would be determined by where they finished on the stage itself.
Soon afterwards, David Pell (Drapac Professional Cycling) and Zainal Mohd Nur Rizuan (Malaysian National Team) broke away. They were hauled back several kilometers later and at Kuala Kangsar (km 32.7), Manan beat Guardini to take the first bonus sprint.
Fifty kilometers into the stage, Loh Sea Keong (Malaysian National Team) and Rhys Pollock (Drapac Professional Cycling) broke away and established a lead of over four minutes. Loh beat his breakaway companion to take the bonus sprint at Beruas (km 77), while behind Guardini got the edge on Manan.
The next intermediate sprint at Pantai Remis (km 100.6) also went to Loh; Guardini’s teammates Roberto De Patre and Otavio Bulgarelli mopped up the points for third and fourth, thus ensuring that their leader didn’t have to sprint.
They and their teammates kept the effort going to chase down the duo. The ramping up of the speed had the desired effect, and things came back together with five kilometers to go. A big crash spelled an end to the sprint hopes of some riders, but Kittel, Manan and Guardini avoided the chaos, scrapped it out inside the final 300 meters and crossed the line in that order.
Kittel was pumped after the finish, realising that the victory showed that he is a more complete rider than was previously thought by some. “I’m known as a time triallist, especially since I got the bronze medal at the U23 world championship last year,” he said. “But I want to show during my first year as a pro that I can also be fast in the sprints. Today is a good start.”
He and the other sprinters will take a back seat for tomorrow’s finish, as the race begins the first of two days in the mountains. The 137.6-kilometer race from Ayer Tawar to the Cameron Highlands will have a major effect on the race and the general classification will be seriously shaken up.
1. Marcel KITTEL, (GER) Skil-Shimano, in 3:14:18
2. Anuar MANAN, (MAS), at s.t.
3. Andrea GUARDINI, (ITA), at s.t.
4. André SCHULZE, (GER) CCC Polsat Polkowice, at s.t.
5. Boris SHPILEVSKY, (RUS) Petrochemical Tabriz Cycling Team, at s.t.
6. Chan Jae JANG, (KOR), at s.t.
7. Christoff VAN HEERDEN, (RSA) Mtn Cycling, at s.t.
8. Takeaki AYABE, (JPN) Aisan Racing Team, at s.t.
9. Elia FAVILLI, (ITA), at s.t.
10. Luca BARLA, (ITA) Androni Giocattoli-Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni, at s.t.
11. Kenny Robert VAN HUMMEL, (NED) Skil-Shimano, at s.t.
12. Dene ROGERS, (NZL), at s.t.
13. Mehdi SOHRABI, (IRI) Petrochemical Tabriz Cycling Team, at s.t.
14. Robert FöRSTER, (GER) UnitedHealthcare, at s.t.
15. Rafal RATAJCZYK, (POL) CCC Polsat Polkowice, at s.t.
16. Hariff SALLEH, (MAS), at s.t.
17. Alireza HAGHI, (IRI) Azad University Iran, at s.t.
18. Boy VAN POPPEL, (NED) UnitedHealthcare, at s.t.
19. David VEILLEUX, (CAN), at s.t.
20. Vidal CELIS ZABALA, (ESP) Letua Cycling Team, at s.t.
21. Taiji NISHITANI, (JPN) Aisan Racing Team, at s.t.
22. Amir RUSLI, (MAS), at s.t.
23. Jaan KIRSIPUU, (EST), at s.t.
24. Ahmad Fahrullah ALIAS, (MAS), at s.t.
25. Manuele CADDEO, (ITA) Colnago-CSF, at s.t.
26. David PELL, (AUS) Drapac Porsche Cycling, at s.t.
27. Hamid SHIRISISAN, (IRI), at s.t.
28. Andrei KRASILNIKAU, (BLR), at s.t.
29. Perrig QUEMENEUR, (FRA), at s.t.
30. Wei Kei CHANG, (TPE), at s.t.
31. Darren LOW, (SIN), at s.t.
32. Mohd Shahrul MAT AMIN, (MAS), at s.t.
33. Libardo NINO CORREDOR, (COL) Letua Cycling Team, at s.t.