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"I was in a really good position in the last corner. I had a great lead out. It was a drag race, that’s what I like. It’s a wonderful finish for me and my team. I’m very happy to win here in Malaysia."

Photo: Feltet.dk

ANDREA GUARDINI

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ANDRONI GIOCATTOLI

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DIMENSION DATA

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FRANCESCO CHICCHI

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LAURENS DE VREESE

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ONE PRO CYCLING

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REINARDT JANSE VAN RENSBURG

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TOUR DE LANGKAWI

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UNITEDHEALTHCARE PRO CYCLING

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WILIER TRIESTINA

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26.02.2016 @ 20:08 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

A few weeks after he beat Caleb Ewan at the Herald Sun Tour, John Murphy (Unitedhealthcare) confirmed that he is a serious contender in the bunch sprint as he came out on top in the third consecutive bunch sprint in the Tour de Langkawi. The American benefited from a great lead-out from his Blue Train and easily held off Francesco Chicchi (Androni) and Jakub Mareczko (Southeast). Andrea Guardini (Astana) had to settle for fifth but it was enough to keep the yellow jersey.

 

We have gathered several reactions.

 

John Murphy: It was the kind of drag race that I like

After back-to-back top-5 finishes on stages 1 and 2, John Murphy sprinted to an impressive victory in an exciting final dash to the line on the 3rd stage of the 2016 Le Tour de Langkawi. Outclassing all those around him, Murphy accelerated away from the bunch at the end of the race, crossing the line with arms raised and a huge smile of satisfaction on his face. Murphy was elated with his win, and praised the hard work of his teammates, “The UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team boys rode an awesome race, keeping me protected all day. In the final kilometers, I was perfectly placed into the final corner. Great work by the team and especially Tanner Putt starting the lead out. I love winning with these guys!”

 

“The Unitedhealthcare Pro Cycling team was phenomenal today”, Murphy emphasized. “The guys did an awesome job keeping me in pole position all day, keeping me hydrated in the heat, giving me mars bars… I was in a really good position in the last corner. I had a great lead out. It was a drag race, that’s what I like. It’s a wonderful finish for me and my team. I’m very happy to win here in Malaysia. I’m having an amazing time. It’s a beautiful country and we’ll keep on racing till the end."

 

The UnitedHealthcare Team rode a tactically perfect race, earning praise from their competitors for the strength with which they brought Murphy to the line. While the sprint trains of the other teams, including Astana and Tinkoff, stayed in the centre of the road in the finishing straight, the UnitedHealthcare Blue Train moved to the far right of the road, protecting themselves from the wind blowing across the peloton. This simple tactical move gave Murphy a clear shot at the line, unobstructed by competitors.

 

 

Murphy’s win follows a string of strong performances for the Asheville-based sprinter. Just missing the podium on stage 1, Murphy came in fourth behind race favourite Andrea Guardini of Astana. Once again on Stage 2, Murphy was close to the victory on the sprint into Georgetown, showing he was on form and hungry for the win. With his team backing him, the goal of stage 3 was to take no chances and show the field that the UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team was strong enough to take the win.

 

The 107-km stage 3 was earmarked for the sprinters. Its short distance and mostly flat parcours was unchallenging for the pack, and the lead teams let a break move away from the peloton early. After gaining a lead of just over three minutes, the sprint teams, including the UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team, then began to pick up the pace. The escapees were brought back with ease, and the energy in the pack increased in anticipation of the finale.

 

Utah-based Tanner Putt initiated the UnitedHealthcare Blue Train that would lead Murphy to the line, and made the critical decision to take the far right line at the finish. This key move gave Murphy the advantage he needed, and he didn’t disappoint. While the previous sprints in the race have been close calls, there was no doubt of Murphy’s win today as he sailed across the line with nearly a bike-length advantage on his rivals.

 

 

Hendrik Redant, Sporting Director, was confident that Murphy had a stage win in him, and was happy to see the team put together a confident ride to deliver on stage 3, “The boys knew what they needed to do to get across the line first, and they proved to themselves and the other teams that they can win here. I’m happy that the team is riding so strongly together, and we are looking forward to the coming day’s of racing”

 

Stage 4 of Le Tour de Langkawi is a chance for the sprinters to relax, as the race climbs towards the centre of the island and eventually to the famed Cameron Highlands climb. At 129.5 km, the race will be all about getting to the base of the finishing climb in the best possible position. UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team climbers Jonny Clarke, Daniel Jaramillo, and Janez Brajkovič will be out in force on the steep stage, with the goal of moving the team up on the general classification rankings.

 

Francesco Chicchi: I lost because my desire to win was too strong

 “I’m disappointed”, Chicchi commented. “I’ve had to launched from a bit too far out. Unitedhealthcare did a perfect job. They went to the right, protected by the barriers while I was in the middle of the road going slightly uphill and exposed to the side wind. I have lost because of my too strong desire to win.”

 

"Congratulations to the guys,” said Androni Manager Gianni Savio. “They are highlighted in all the races we have had in this early season in America, Europe and Asia. We have been close to victory on several occasions and we are convinced that riding with this determination will allow the success. We would like to dedicate it to the many fans in Argentina, Italy, France and Malaysia that have always followed with great passion.”

 

Jakub Marezcko: I managed to beat Guardini but it was not enough to win

“I was in fourth position at the last curve then I got a bit lost in the sprint”, Mareczko described. “I recovered some positions and managed to pass Guardini but I couldn’t get better than third.”

 

Tinkoff take the initiative on the even of the queen stage

On a short and fast stage that finished in a bunch sprint, Tinkoff took the reins in keeping the race under control. With the GC at stake on Saturday's queen stage, the team worked hard to minimize the breakaway's advantage. Michael Kolar took fourth while Jesper Hansen will now lead the team effort in Saturday's final climb to Tanah Rata.

 

"Given the importance tomorrow's stage has in our GC contention with Jesper Hansen, we knew we couldn't let any breakaway slip away," commented Sport Director Jan Valach after the finish. "Jesper is our man for the GC and we want to bring him at the front tomorrow, so if we had given a strong rider the opportunity to join the escapees and get away, we could have suffered a serious blow in our fight for the yellow jersey."

 

"Tomorrow's last climb is long but not unassailable, with an average gradient of 5%. If a rider had gotten a three-minute advantage at the finish today, he could have practically pocketed the overall win at the Tour de Langkawi. So, we left three riders set off after 10km and then worked to keep them under control. Michael Gogl was the one from our team to take initially the responsibility and, together with Astana, we never gave the escapees more than 3:30-minute lead," commented Valach.

 

 

The three riders saw their advantage steadily erode and within the final kilometers they were hauled back into the peloton.

 

"Evgeny Petrov took over from Gogl to do the control and then Juraj Sagan and Erik Baska led Kolar into the sprint. Kolar initiated his sprint 300 meters from the finish and was edged out in the few final meters, taking fourth."

 

The queen stage, from Ipoh to Tanah Rata, is expected to settle the race among the climbers. Long 129km, it finishes atop a 30km climb that becomes challenging in the final 15km.

 

"The guys have shown in these initial three stages that they can give their best. Victory has eluded so far but we will fight hard for it tomorrow," concluded Valach.

 

Guardini pleased to have been beaten: Now we have an ally that can pull with us

Guardini was happy to keep the yellow jersey but surprisingly, rather than expressing his disappointment, he was full of praise for the day’s winner.

 

“In Unitedhealthcare, we’ve now found a team that can pull with us”, the Italian said. “They do a really good job for their sprinter. I quickly understood how difficult it would be to win the sprint when I launched mine. I started and stayed in the same position I was in.”

 

«There were a lot of attacks from the pack today and I tried to close the gaps. It was like a fighting with them and I think they were very angry at me, but it is my job,” said his teammate Laurens De Vreese after the stage.

 

“Miguel [Lopez] and Andrea need to save energy for climbs and sprints so we have only three riders to make a job, to control the race. It was very difficult, but I’m satisfied because we did a good job today and I’m happy with my shape for the moment,” continued Belgian rider of the Kazakh team.

Laurens De Vreese and Arman Kamyshev did a perfect race to bring the leaders of Astana team safely to the finish and avoid any unexpected situations and surprises.

 

Dimension Data: We needed a harder stage to beat the sprinters

Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka had tried to set up Reinardt Janse van Rensburg for the finale and all was looking good until that 1km to go point. With so many teams pushing for a better position, the African Team lost a few places through one of the final corners and Janse van Rensburg started his sprint from too far back.

 

The South African finished with good speed but he was visibly disappointed after crossing the line in 11th position.

 

Sports director Jens Zemke said: “We rode to close the gap to the breakaway today but in the final, Reinardt did not have the position to go for the victory. Also, the pure sprinters were too fresh after such a short stage and also with a downhill finish. We have more opportunities in the coming stages.”

 

Strong Kiwi nearly denies the sprinters in Langkawi

Stage 3, the shortest day of the Tour always had potential to be a fast and furious affair. 107km in length the race took the peloton from Kulim to the finish line in Kuala Kangsar, with temperatures starting at 40 degrees things were due to heat up for ONE Pro Cycling in more ways than one.

 

Taking the weather and upcoming stages into consideration the Team knew it was likely that a break would form and there was a small possibility of it staying away. With this in mind, the decision was made to get a man in the breakaway, ideally with Matthew Goss on the wheel. This would be easier said than done, as GC riders weren’t about to let any threats move up the road on their own on such a short stage. However, after 5km James Oram managed to slip away into a 3 man break with the peloton letting it go. It was good news for the team as it provided an additional opportunity for time bonuses on 3 intermediate sprints.

 

The break gained a maximum of 3 minutes 45 seconds before Astana started to increase the tempo, gradually reeling in the break and holding it at a gap of around 2 minutes 30 seconds. Once in the break the plan was for James Oram to control his speed and not exert too much energy before tomorrow’s mountain stage. But with a 1 minute and 20 second lead coming to the final climb Oram felt strong enough to attack and make a big move on the climb in an attempt to win the stage.

 

Coming into the final climb Oram and one other rider still had 1 minute 20 seconds on the bunch but big pressure was applied by Astana to close the gap. Oram attacked with 1km to go, topping the climb with 48 seconds clear and 15km to the finish line. At this stage Oram felt strong enough to increase the pressure once more and even managed to gain another 10 seconds on the bunch. Such a close call, the young Kiwi gave a monumental effort to try and stay away only being caught with 600m remaining.

 

Meanwhile, Richard Handley, George Harper and John Ebsen organised themselves to lead Karol Domagalski out for the sprint with Matt Goss leading the charge at the front in a bid to deliver his teammate into the best position possible. After a chaotic bunch sprint to the finish Domagalski managed 13th on the stage and 10th on the GC, while the time bonuses Oram collected during the Sprints moves him up to an impressive 4th position on the GC with the Team still leading the Team Classification.

 

”Gave it an unexpected nudge @myltdl in hope of a cheeky stage win for @ONEProCycling. Huge thanks to the team for believing in me,” Oram tweeted after the stage.

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