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Having distanced race leader Guardini on the main climb of the day, Ewan beat Reguigui and Duque in a sprint from a 50-rider group to win stage 3 and take the lead in the Tour de Langkawi

Photo: Con Chronis

LEONARDO DUQUE

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MITCHELTON-SCOTT

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TOUR DE LANGKAWI

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YOUCEF REGUIGUI

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10.03.2015 @ 10:42 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

After two second places, Caleb Ewan (Orica-GreenEDGE) finally got things right in stage 3 of the Tour de Langkawi when the Australian used a combination of his fast sprint and solid climbing skills to take his first international win as a professional. Having made it into a 45-rider group over the big category 1 climb in the first half of the stage, Ewan used his strong Orica-GreenEDGE team to keep race leader Andrea Guardini (Astana) at bay and finally he beat Youcef Reguigui (MTN-Qhubeka) and Leonardo Duque (Colombia) in the sprint to win the stage and take the overall lead.

 

In the first two stages of the Tour de Langkawi, Andrea Guardini gave Caleb Ewan a sprinting lesson when the Italian proved his good condition by relegating the talented Australian into second in the two bunch sprints that ended those stages. However, Ewan remained confident in his chances, saying that his legs got better and better.

 

After two completely flat stages, today’s third stage in the Malaysian race was a lot hillier as included a tough category 2 and category 1 climb in the first half before it descended to a completely flat final third. Not known as a strong climber, Guardini knew that he would probably suffer and yesterday he said that this could be Ewan’s big chance to shine.

 

Ewan has often proved that he is actually a pretty good climber and he put those skills to good use when the peloton split over the big category 1 ascent. At the top, the Australian found himself in a 45-rider group with teammates Leigh Howard, Pieter Weening and Sam Bewley while Guardini was 2.40 behind in another big group.

 

Orica-GreenEDGE got assistance from Tinkoff-Saxo who had four riders in the group, and Colombia who had their GC rider Rodolfo Torres and sprinter Leonardo Duque in the group, and they managed to constantly increase their advantage over the Guardini group. With 30km to go, the race leader was more than 11 minutes behind and it was clear that his time in yellow had come to an end.

 

To get the chance to sprint for the win, however, Ewan and Orica-GreenEDGE first had to catch a strong breakaway with Natnael Berhane (MTN-Qhubeka), Kiel Reijnen (Unitedhealthcare), Frederic Brun (Bretagne), Francisco Mancebo and Soufiane Haddi (both Skydive) and it required some hard work. Inside the final 15km, the junction was made though but they got another late scare.

 

With only very few domestique resources left for the sprint teams, Pavel Brutt (Tinkoff-Saxo) saw his chance to take off and for a moment it seemed as though he could take the win. With 2km to go, however, he was brought back and so it came down to a 50-rider sprint where Ewan beat Youcef Reguigui and Leonardo Duque to take his third win as a professional.

 

With the win, he also took the leader’s jersey and he now leads Berhane who picked up bonus seconds in all intermediate sprints, by 13 seconds. He should have another battle with Guardini tomorrow when the riders are back in flatter terrain on stage 4 which only has a small category 4 climb in the final third.

 

A hilly stage

After two days for the sprinters, the Tour de Langkawi headed into hillier terrain on stage 3 which brought the riders over 170km from Gerik to Tanah Merah. The first half included both a category 2 and category 1 climb – the latter summited at 1006m of altitude – but the final 100km were all downhill or flat, meaning that there was time for a regrouping to take place.

 

Again the riders took the start in very hot and humid conditions but one rider failed to sign in this morning, Florian Guillou (Bretagne) who hurt his knee in a crash in yesterday’s finale was unable to continue.

 

A strong breakaway

Like always in Langkawi, the race got off to a very fast start with lots of attacks and as the riders headed straight up the category 2 climb, it made for some tough racing. First a 7-rider group got clear and when they were brought back, 5 very strong riders made use of the hilly terrain to get clear.

 

Natnael Berhane (MTN-Qhubeka), Kiel Reijnen (Unitedhealthcare), Frederic Brun (Bretagne), Francisco Mancebo and Soufiane Haddi (both Skydive) took off after 17km of racing and it was Reijnen who defended his mountains jersey by leading Berhane, Haddi, Brun, Mancebo and Dadi Suryardi (Pegasus) who was the first from the peloton, across the line in the first KOM sprint. Later Berhane beat Mancebo in the first intermediate sprint to pick up important bonus seconds. At this point, the peloton was already 5 minutes behind and the tough racing was too much for Elgun Alizada (Synergy Baku) and Xin Yang Liu (Giant) who both abandoned the race.

 

Guardini gets distanced

The peloton rode fast up the big category 1 climb and this created a split in the peloton. Andrea Guardini (Astana) was among the riders to lose contact with the main group and at the top his group had lost 2.40 to the first peloton that included Ewan. The front group had seen their advantage being reduced to 3.20

 

Guardini’s group continued to lose ground and at the 77km mark, they were 6.56 behind the leaders. Meanwhile, the first group had a hard time getting closer to the front group and the gap stayed around 3 minutes for a while.

 

Puncture for Mancebo

The break had a small setback when they had to wait for Mancebo who suffered a puncture and so the gap was down to 2.45 at the 87km mark. The break got back up to speed though and after 100km of racing, they were again 3.15 ahead while Guardini’s group was at 7.55.

 

Berhane beat Mancebo, Brun and Reijnen in the second intermediate sprint while Orica-GreenEDGE and Tinkoff-Saxo worked hard in the first peloton that included around 45 riders. Gradually they started to get closer and at the 118km mark, the gap was again 2.45 while Guardini’s group was now at 9.35.

 

The break is caught

The order of passage in the final intermediate sprint was again Berhane, Mancebo, Brun and Reijnen and now the time gap had been reduced to just 2 minutes. Guardini was now 12 minutes behind and so the race leader was out of contention.

 

As Colombia came to the fore to help Orica-GreenEDGE in the chase, the gap came further down and with 30km to go, it was only one minute. With the fast pace, the quintet had no change to stay away and they were brought back inside the final 15km.

 

With less than 8k to go, Pavel Brutt (Tinkoff-Saxo) took a flyer and he worked hard to stay clear. With 2km to go, however, all was back together for a bunch sprint where Ewan showed his class by taking the win.

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