By Jason Sumner, VeloNews associate editor
The 10th edition of the Tour de Langkawi stage race is set to commence on Friday with an 106.9km romp around this resort island off the northwest coast of Malaysia. The stage will be over almost exclusively flat terrain, leaving the inevitable field sprint to decide the opener.
This year’s race features one of the strongest fields that has ever made the trip to this predominantly Muslim nation of 22.7 million in Southeast Asia. Four ProTour squads, Credit Agricole, Discovery Channel, Domina Vacanze and Liberty Seguros, will start the 10-day affair that concludes February 6 in downtown Kuala Lumpur.
Unlike most of its neighbors, Malaysia suffered very little damage from December’s deadly tsunamis even though the epicenter was just 400km from Langkawi.
As usual the race will likely come down to the brutal trip up to the Genting Highlands. This year the fearsome hors categorie climb comes at the end of stage 8, which covers 97km starting in Kuala Kubu Baru. The only hitch in that storyline could come during the stage 4 time trial in Bachok. At 20km, the mostly flat run could be tough enough to eliminate some of the top climbers, and give a rider such as Liberty Seguros all-rounder Jörg Jaksche a shot at the overall.
Other names that are possible GC threats include Jaksche’s teammate Joseba Beloki, 2003 overall winner Tom Danielson (see “Q&A:Can Discovery’s Danielson win Langkawi again?“) and Colombia Selle Italia’s Jose Rujano. The Colombia Selle Italia has taken two of the last three overall titles here (Hernan Dario Munoz in 2002, and Freddy Gonzalez in 2004), and team manager Gianni Savio is looking to add to that list.
“We want to win it again,” he said at the pomp and circumstance-laden team presentation at a hotel in Langkawi’s largest town, Kuah.
Danielson’s Discovery squad is one of two American teams here in Malaysia. U.S. domestic power Navigators is the other. Also worth noting is the Crédit Agricole debut of American Saul Raisin who has raced for the team’s U23 squad a year ago. All told 20 teams with seven riders each will be at the startline on Friday.
The entire race will cover 1282.6km, with 11 rated climbs along the way (two Cat 1, three Cat 2, two Cat 3, three Cat 4 and one hors categorie). The race will travel through 11 of Malaysia’s 14 states (Kedah, Perlis, Perak, Penang, Kelantan, Terengganu, Pahang, Selangor, Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya and Negeri Sembilan).
Stay tuned to VeloNews.com throughout the 10-day race for reports, results and photos.
COLOMBIA SELLE ITALIA (COL)
PEREZ ARANGO, Marlon Alirio
DI BIASE, Daniele
VAN HOUT, Russell
WILSON, TrentCREDIT AGRICOLE (ITA)
LE MEVEL, Christophe
VOGONDY, NicolasDISCOVERY CHANNEL (USA)
ROULSTON, HaydenLIBERTY SEGUROS (ESP)
DE KORT, Koen
GASPAR RIBEIRO, Juno JorgeCERAMICHE PANARIA – NAVIGARE (ITA)
PEREZ CUAPIO, Julio AlbertoACTION (POL)
WADECKI, AdamDOMINA VACANZE (ITA)
SOLARI, LucaACQUA & SAPONE – ADRIA MOBIL (ITA)
MOSER, LeonardoVALSIR-BARLOWORLD (ITA)
PLAZA ROMERO, David
SULLIVAN, SeanLANDBOUWKREDIET-COLNAGO (BEL)
VAN LANDCHOOT, James
VAN DE WALLE, JurgenMR BOOKMAKER.COM-SPORTTECH (BEL)
VAN DE WOUWER, Kurt
WUYTS, PeterNAVIGATORS INSURANCE (USA)
WALTERS, MarkWIESENHOFF (GER)
WACKERNAGEL, LarsPROTON (MAS)
AHMAD FALLANIE Ali
MOHAMMED Wan Mohammed Najmee Wan
MOHD SAZLEE Ismail
MUHAMMAD FAUZAN AHMAD Lutfi
RUSLAN MohdjasminTEAM BRIDGESTONE (JPN)
SUZUKI, ShinriWISMILAK (INA)
BRADFORD, ChrisGREAT BRITAIN (GBR)
WINN, JulianIRAN (IRN)
MALEKI MIZAN, Hassan
KAZEMI SARAI, Ahad
MIZBANI IRANAGH, Chader
SAEIDI TANHA, Abas
SOHRABI, MehdiIRELAND (IRL)
LACEY, SeanMALAYSIA (MAS)
HAMAD, Mohd Mahazir
ABDUL NASIR, Mohd Yusof
ROSLI, Nor Effendy
DAUD, Mohd Fuad
SELAMAT, ShahrizanPAST WINNERS
2004: Freddy Gonzalez (Col), Colombia Selle-Italia
2003: Tom Danielson (USA), Saturn
2002: Hernan Dario Munoz (Col), Colombia-Selle Italia
2001: Paolo Lanfranchi (I), Mapei-Quickstep
2000: Chris Horner (USA), Mercury
1999: Paolo Lanfranchi (I), Mapei-Quickstep
1998: Gabrielle Missaglia, (I) Mapei-Bricobi
1997: Luca Scinto (I), MG-Technogym
1996: Damian McDonald (Aus), Giant-AIS