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The Dutch sprinter avoids a big crash inside the final kilometre that leaves just a select group to sprint it out; Brown gives him a perfect lead-out and the Belkin duo makes it a 1-2 while Quintero defends yellow

Photo: Belkin Pro Cycling Team

GRAEME BROWN

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MARCO HALLER

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TEAM JUMBO-VISMA

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TOUR DE LANGKAWI

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28.02.2014 @ 11:55 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Theo Bos took the first of the many expected sprint battles in the Tour de Langkawi when he emerged as the fastest in a dramatic finale of the second stage of the Malaysian race. Being positioned at the back of his well-drilled Belkin machine, he avoided the carnage when several riders hit the deck inside the final kilometre before his teammate Graeme Brown gave him a great lead-out that was enough to make it a 1-2 for the Dutch team. Duber Quintero (Colombia) defended his leader's jersey.

 

After yesterday's surprise win for Duber Quintero, the sprinters finally got their chance to shine in today's second stage of the Tour de Langkawi and the rider to get one up on his rivals was Belkin's Theo Bos who led home teammate Graeme Brown after a dramatic finish.

 

The sprint teams were intent on not repeating yesterday's failure and so the day's early break was kept firmly under control throughout the entire stage and things came perfectly back together inside the final 10km. All was set for the first big showdown between the fastest riders in the race when the drama occurred.

 

Shortly after passing the flamme rouge, the Belkin team moved to the front, passing the Androni train that was working to set up Kenny Van Hummel for the sprint. That proved to be a crucial decision as moments later a big crash brought down a big part of the peloton, including many of Bos' biggest rivals.

 

While Andrea Guardini, Van Hummel, and Francesco Chicchi were all left on the ground, a very select front group stayed ahead and entered the final corner to contest the sprint finish. Belkin still had their train lined out on the front and when they accelerated out of the corner, the small front group got completely strung out, with several gaps opening up.

 

Brown accelerated hard on the front for his teammate Bos and the duo gapped all of their rivals, with only a handful of riders scrambling to get back in contention a few metres further back. A few more riders hit the deck in the hectic finish while Bos and Brown looked at each other, realizing that they had it all locked up.

 

Bos made a final acceleration to pass his teammate and open up his 2014 account while Brown held on to 2nd, with Marco Haller (Katusha) beating Aidis Kruopis (Orica-GreenEDGE) in the sprint for 3rd. While the Belkin duo was celebrating their win, several riders were transported away from the finish in ambulance.

 

Duber Quintero avoided the carnage and so the young Colombian safely defended his overall lead. He has a great chance of doing so again tomorrow when the riders tackle the 166.5km third stage from Kampar and Kuala Lumpur. The stage is mostly flat and only a category 4 climb 22.5km from the finish may provide a very small obstacle in what should again be a sprint finish.

 

A flat stage

After yesterday's upset victory for Duber Quintero, the sprinters were expected to get an immediate chance to make amends as the 132.5km second stage took the riders over flat terrain from Sungai Petani to Taiping. With only one small categorized climb at the midpoint, the fast finishers had every opportunity to come to the fore if they could agree to bring things back together.

 

Like yesterday there was no big battle to get into today's early break after the 123 riders took off on a very hot day in Malaysia. Very Elchin Asadov (Synergy Baku) and Ho Junrong (OCBC) took off and they were quickly joined by Asadov's teammate Tural Isgandarov, Behnam Khalilikhosroshahi (Tabriz), Jiang Zhi Hui (Giant), and Abdul Rashid Ibrahim (Malaysia). The peloton was content with the composition of the sextet which was already 3.10 ahead after 10km of racing.

 

Attacks in the break

Quintero's Colombia team quickly assumed its position on the front of the peloton and started to stabilize the gap between the 3- and 4-minute marks. However, the cooperation in the front group wasn't optimal and shortly before the first intermediate sprint at the 24km mark, Asadov and Khalilikhosroshahi took off.

 

Khalilikhosroshahi beat Asadov in the sprint while Zhang led Isgandarov and the remaining chasers across the line 40 seconds later. At this point, the peloton had again allowed the gap to come up and it was now 5.10.

 

The front groups merge

Ibrahim was unable to keep up with the chasers and despite doing his best to get back, the Malaysian had to throw in the towel and fall back to the peloton. Meanwhile, Khalilikhosroshahi was again faster than Asadov in the second sprint while Jiang and Ho were first from the chase group.

 

The five escapees found back together shortly after the second intermediate sprint and were now 5.35 ahead of the peloton but the teams of the sprinters were intent on not letting another opportunity slip away. Yesterday Andrea Guardini and Kenny Van Hummel had both been in the top 3 in the peloton's sprint for 5th and so Astana and Androni put one rider each on the front.

 

Jiang falls off the pace

The gap came down to 4 minutes while Jiang fell off the pace in the front group. The Chinese was quickly back in the peloton in which Colombia had now again assumed their position on the front, keeping the gap stable at around the 4-minute mark.

 

Isgandarov beat his teammate Asadov and Khalilikhosroshahi at the top of the day's only climb after 71.8km of racing and they could now start to hope for another upset win. Colombia had deliberately slowed down and with the gap back up to  5.10, Astana had to take over the chase.

 

The chase gets serious

Khalilikhosroshahi also won the final intermediate sprint ahead of Asadov, Ho, and Isgandarov but the gap was now coming down at a rapid pace. With 33km to go, the front quartet were 3.10 ahead and the peloton was now in full chase mode as Astana (Guardini), YellowFluo (Francesco Chicchi), and Orica-GreenEDGE (Aidis Kruopis) were working hard on the front.

 

With 20km to go, the gap was only 2 minutes and when the advantage was down to a minute, Asadov decided that it was time to take off on his own. The Synergy Baku rider passed the 10km to go mark as the lone leader but a little later all escapees were back in the bunch.

 

Brutt tries his hand

The sprint teams were now jostling for position at the front but with only 6-rider teams it was important not to hit the front too early. Inside the final few kilometres, Androni took control for Van Hummel and they quickly neutralized a short-lived attempt from Pavel Brutt (Katusha).

 

When the riders passed the flamme rouge, Belkin moved to the front and that proved to be their wisest decision the entire day. A few moments later, the big crash happened, opening the door for Bos and Brown to make it a 1-2 for the Dutch team

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