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Despite crashing hard in yesterday's stage, the Italian sprinter beats yesterday's winner Bos and Martinez in the bunch sprint in stage 3 while Quintero finishes safely in the bunch to defend his leader's jersey

Photo: Sirotti

ANDREA GUARDINI

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TOUR DE LANGKAWI

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YANNICK MARTINEZ

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NEWS
01.03.2014 @ 11:27 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Not even the injuries from yesterday's crash can stop Andrea Guardini (Astana) who added to his record of stage wins in the Tour de Langkawi when he won the bunch sprint in Kuala Lumpur at the end of today's third stage of the Asian event. He held off Theo Bos (Belkin) and Yannick Martinez (Europcar) in the final dash to the line while Duber Quintero (Colombia) finished safely in the bunch to defend his leader's jersey on the eve of the queen stage.

 

With 12 stage wins already on his palmares, Andrea Guardini is known as Mr Tour de Langkawi but when the Italian crashed hard at the end of yesterday's second stage of the 2014 edition of the event, his participation seemed to be in danger. For the first time in four years, it appeared that the Italian could be forced to leave his favourite event empty-handed.

 

24 hours later Guardini did the unthinkable when he sprinted to his 13th win in the race in today's third stage when it all came down to a bunch kick in the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur. Prior to the race, his sports director Alexandr Shefer had expressed concerns over his ability to get through the stage but the pain didn't stop him from beating yesterday's winner Theo Bos and Yannick Martinez in the final sprint.

 

The stage was a straightforward sprint stage but the peloton had to dig deep to catch today's breakaway which was a much stronger one that it has been in previous days - despite the fact that the peloton failed to catch the escapees on the opening day. Matthew Brammeier (Synergy Baku) who had started the day in 3rd overall, was again part of the action and was the virtual leader of the race for much of the stage.

 

In the end, the Irishman had to be content with extending his lead in the mountains classification as the sprint teams combined forces to reel in the break in time for a bunch sprint. Despite Belkin being in control in the finale, Guardini proved that he rules in Malaysia.

 

Duber Quintero's Colombia team had to work hard to defend their overall lead but the young Colombian will again wear the leader's jersey in tomorrow's stage. It could, however, be his final day as race leader as the peloton will tackle the queen stage to the top of the Genting Highlands. The short 110.9km stage is entirely flat but ends on the grueling climb to the finish that usually determines the final GC of the 10-day race.

 

A flat stage

For the third day in a row, the sprinters were expected to come to the fore in today's third stage of the Malaysian race as the riders headed over 166.5km mostly flat kilometres from Kampar to the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur. Only two category 4 climbs could test the riders' legs and so a bunch sprint was expected.

 

However, many of the fast finishers were left wounded after yesterday's big crash and this probably gave several riders some hope that a break could have a chance. Hence, the start of the stage was very active, with several attacks being launched in the early part of the race.

 

An aggressive start

While the peloton was completely strung out in the opening phase as attacks kept going off the front, no one was able to take off. The first to get a small gap was Patrick Lane (Synergy Baku) after 17km of racing but he was quickly back in the peloton.

 

4km further up the road, the day's break was finally formed when Brammeier, Patrick Facchini (Androni), Jacques Janse Van Rensburg (MTN Qhubeka), Bradley White (UnitedHealthCare), Mohd Saufi Mat Senan (Terengganu), and Thomas Rabou (OCBC) took off. Finally, the peloton slowed down a bit, allowing the group to build up a gap.

 

Mechanical for Facchini

After 26km, the gap had already come up to 2.05 but unfortunately the break lost some manpower when a mechanical forced Facchini to fall back to the peloton. The remaining 5 escapees continued their efforts while Quintero's Colombia team started to control the pace in the peloton, with the gap reaching 4.15 after 35km of racing.

 

Brammeier beat Rabou, White, and Van Rensburg at the first intermediate sprint to pick up 3 bonus seconds and he was also first at the top of the first climb to extend his lead in the KOM competition, with Rabou and Senan following just behind him. At this point after 45km of racing, the gap reached its 5.30.

 

A stable gap

Colombia stabilized the advantage at around the 5-minute mark for a long time. When Rabou beat Van Rensburg, Brammeier, and White at the second intermediate sprint after 8km, the gap was still 5.15.

 

At the 106km mark, the gap was 5.40 and all the work had until now been left to Colombia. With only 60km remaining, however, the sprint teams started to come to the fore, with Androni (Kenny Van Hummel), Orica-GreenEDGE (Aidis Kruopis), and Katusha (Marco Haller) all putting a rider on the front of the peloton.

 

The gap comes down

The gap now started to come down. 34km from the finish, it was 3.20 and as Belkin replaced Androni in the group of chasers, the gap was down to 2.15 when only 25km remained.

 

The riders faced the final category 4 climb inside the final 20km, and Brammeier again managed to reach the top first, this time ahead of Rabou, Van Rensburg, and White. A little later, Rabou beat Van Rensburg, Brammeier, and White in the final intermediate sprint.

 

The break splits up

With 15km to go, only White and Van Rensburg decided to persist while the rest of the break was swallowed up by the peloton. With 12km to go, the duo was still one minute ahead but behind, Belkin had now taken complete control in the peloton.

 

Despite their best efforts, the front duo was caught inside the final 10km and all was set for a big bunch sprint. Belkin did most of the work but the Dutch team had to be content with 2nd as Guardini returned to his winning ways in Langkawi.

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