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After a fast race in Kuala Lumpur, Guardini beat Ewan and Kolar in a bunch sprint to take his fourth stage win in the race; Reguigui finished 10th and won the race overall

Photo: Le Tour de Langkawi 2015

ANDREA GUARDINI

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ASTANA QAZAQSTAN TEAM

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MICHAEL KOLAR

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NTT PRO CYCLING TEAM

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TOUR DE LANGKAWI

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VALERIO AGNOLI

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YOUCEF REGUIGUI

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15.03.2015 @ 12:31 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Andrea Guardini (Astana) confirmed his status as the fastest riders in the Tour de Langkawi when he won the bunch sprint on the final day of the race. The Italian beat Caleb Ewan (Orica-GreenEDGE) and Michael Kolar (Tinkoff-Saxo) in the final dash to the line while Yoicef Reguigui (MTN-Qhubeka) finished 10th to win the race overall.

 

Andrea Guardini went into the Tour de Langkawi with the all-time record of 14 stage wins in the Malaysian race and after an excellent start to the year, he was expected to be the rider to beat in the bunch sprints. That prediction turned to be true as the Italian continued his love affair with Asia’s biggest race during the 8 days of racing.

 

After he won three of the first four stages of the race, Guardini had a quieter time in the second half of the race where the race entered hillier terrain and where he had his only defeat in a bunch sprint when he dropped his chain on stage 6. Hence, he went into today’s final stage in a determined mood to underline his status as the fastest rider.

 

He faced a tough ask though as illness had hit the Astana team and so he only had two teammates at his side, including Valerio Agnoli who had to take care of his GC ambitions too. However, there was no one stopping Guardini who again emerged as the fastest when the fast race in Kuala Lumpur came down to the expected bunch sprint.

 

A strong breakaway threatened to steal the show but hard chase work by Orica-GreenEDGE brought everything back together with less than 3km to go. From here Guardini negotiated the technical finale on his own to come away with the win. As it had been the case in two of his previous three wins, his nearest rival was Caleb Ewan while Michael Kolar completed the podium.

 

In general it ended as a great day for Astana as Agnoli managed to win the first intermediate sprint and so picked up three important bonus seconds. That was enough to catapult him onto the overall podium as he moved into second, pushing Sebastian Henao (Sky) and Pierre-Luc Perichon (Bretagne) down one spot each.

 

However, there was no one stopping yesterday’s winner Youcef Reguigui (MTN-Qhubeka) who took no risks in the bunch sprint and rolled safely across the line in 10th. That was enough for him to win the race overall ahead of Agnoli and Henao.

 

Ewan won the points classification due to his consistent performances that saw him finish in the top 3 in six stages while Kiel Reijnen (Unitedhealthcare) won the mountains classification. Tomohiro Hayakawa (Aisan) was the best Asian rider while Pegasus Cycling Team won the teams classification.

 

With the biggest race done and dusted, focus in Asia moves to the Tour de Taiwan which kicks off in a week and runs from March 22-26.

 

A flat stage

As usual, the Tour de Langkawi ended with a short, flat stage for the sprinters as the riders tackled 96.1km from Kuala Kubu Bharu to the capital of Kuala Lumpur. There was a single category 4 climb at the midpoint but otherwise the stage was completely flat and as it finished with a few laps of a flat circuit in Kuala Lumpur, the fast men were expected to shine.

 

The riders took the start in the usual hot and humid conditions and they were keen to get the race off to a proper ending. Right from the start, there were lots of attack and it took time for anyone to get clear.

 

Chtioui takes off

At the 5km mark, Rafaa Chtioui (Skydive) and Samir Jabrayilov (Synergy Baku) got an advantage but the latter was unable to keep up. Instead, the strong Tunisian fought hard to get a gap but at the 11km mark, it was again all together.

 

Torku took control of the peloton to position themselves for the intermediate sprint at the 20km mark where Agnoli made a big coup by winning the sprint and move into second overall. Jesper Hansen and Michael Kolar (both Tinkoff-Saxo) were second and third while a disappointed Henao had to settle for fourth.

 

Chtioui tries again

After the sprint, 6 riders got clear when Philip Deignan (Sky), Rodolfo Torres (Colombia), Zheng Zhang (Hengxiang), Arin Iswana (Pegasus), Chtioui and Sea Keong Loh (Malaysia) attacked. Alessandro Tonelli (Bardiani) and Zulkfle Azwan (National Sports Council) briefly tried to bridge the gap but they were quickly brought back.

 

The six leaders fought hard to maintain a 12-second advantage and the small gap allowed Liam Bertazzo (Southeast) to bridge across. However, the peloton was in no mood to let them go and at the 29km mark, they were brought back.

 

Chtioui initiates the break

Chtioui didn’t want to give up and so he attacked again with Bruno Pires (Tinkoff-Saxo), Leonardo Duque (Colombia), Jonathan Clarke (Unitedhealthcare) and Harrif Salleh (Terengganu). The latter dropped back to the peloton but the remaining four attackers were allowed to get an advantage.

 

It reached 42 seconds before MTN-Qhubeka started to chase and they kept it between 30 and 40 seconds for some time. At the 42km mark, however, they had extended their advantage to 55 seconds and 9km later, it reached 1.15.

 

The chase gets organized

MTN-Qhubeka had now been joined by Orica-GreenEDGE and Astana and as they started the six laps of the finishing circuit, the gap had been brought down to 55 seconds. The fast even caused a split in the peloton as they negotiated the many turns in the capital.

 

Chtioui beat Pires, Duque and Clarke in the second intermediate sprint at a time when the gap had come down to 30 seconds. Orica-GreenEDGE were now doing most of the work and when Chtioui beat Clarke, Pires and Duque in the final intermediate sprint, they had brought it down to just 16 seconds.

 

The escapees were still clear with one lap to go and with 5km to go, they still had an advantage of 10 seconds. With 3km to go, it was 6 seconds but moments later they were brought back and even though Aisan took control in the finale, it was Guardini who came away with the win.

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