By Greg Johnson in Banting, Malaysia
Cycling in Asia reached a milestone at the Tour de Langkawi on Monday when a group of five riders broke away from the peloton and resisted its pursuit to the finish line in Banting. After averaging 44.54 kilometres/hour over the 209.4 kilometre stage, Jae Won Lee (Seoul Cycling) became the first Korean winner in the Malaysian event's 13 year history.
"My manager told me not to look behind, but I couldn't help it," said Lee of the final kilometres to his history-making victory. "I'm very happy to win."
Such is the consistency of the Asian squads at this year's Tour that four of them are placed in the top six on General Classification. While they don't solely field Asian riders, Skil - Shimano, Letua Cycling Team, Meitan Hompo - GDR and Seoul Cycling hold third through to sixth in the standings.
The strength of the Asian squads at this year's Tour shows why it's important for the event to continue to field national outfits, in addition to the professional European teams, according to race director Michael Robb. "It does for sure, today the race was made by the Asian riders," said the Irishman. "They took the chance, they went early on and they managed held on to the very end.
"It was a very well taken win," he added. "Any of the five of them would have been a well deserved winner."
While Lee's victory makes him just the fourth Asian stage winner in Langkawi, the successful all-Asian breakaway also saw Anuar Manan (Letua Cycling Team) become the first Malaysian rider to wear a jersey in their home event, after he took the points classification lead. After winning three stages at last month's Jelajah Malaysia, Manan said he was disappointed with the outcome of today's stage after he finished second to Lee.
Read the full feature on Asian cycling.