Former Kelme rider Alexis Rodriguez will lead the Continental Malaysian team LeTua at Le Tour de Langkawi (March 1-7), which begins next week in Kota Bharu. The 33-year-old Spaniard will follow the path of former Tour de France yellow jersey wearer Jan Kirsipuu, who enjoyed his time with the Asian squad last year.
"I'd seen on the internet they were looking for riders, so I contacted the team and luckily [Ng] Yong Li told them I'm a good climber because he remembered me when he raced in Portugal with ASC Vitoria in 2007," Rodriguez said.
After three years with Kelme from 2001 to 2003, Rodriguez enjoyed successive moves to Portuguese teams: Beppi, Barbot, Tres Molinos and Fercase. He is best remembered for coming second on stage one at the 2002 Dauphiné Libéré behind Jacky Durand, who tried to speak to him in Spanish during their two-man breakaway. Rodriguez replied to him in perfect French and informed him that he was born in Marseille where his sister still lives.
He's now back in the Spanish Elite ranks with Supermercado Froiz and divides his days into three parts at his base in Salamanca. He's a spinning instructor in the morning, trains like a professional cyclist in the middle of the day and he gives massages in the evenings as a qualified physiotherapist.
"Our first stage race in Spain will be in Galicia in mid April, so it's really good to come here to Malaysia, find great weather and put seven days of racing in the legs. Le Tour de Langkawi is a great opportunity to begin a season. But it's been difficult to train due to the awful weather conditions in Europe. I'm probably at 70 per cent of my capacities. The staff of LeTua might expect more from me than my current form allows, but it's fun to do this and I'll give my best to the team."
Team manager Shukor Yassin picked Rodriguez along with several other foreign applicants, including two other Spaniards, Raul Castano and Edgar Nieto, as well as Australian Mark O'Brien, who transferred from Drapac-Porsche. Therefore, LeTua will feature only two Malaysians: Ng Yong Li and Hafiz Rozli.
LeTua hopes to improve their performance from last year at Le Tour de Langkawi when they won a stage through Indonesian sprinter Samai and the best Asian rider competition with Tonton Susanto who finished seventh overall.