The Australian national team is fielding a strong squad for the upcoming Tour de Langkawi, Malaysia (February 9-15). The changed format of a shorter race should suit the team well.
For a few years, the team did not participate. "The 12-day race was too long for our young riders," national road coach Brian Stephens explained. "We came back in 2007 with our trade team Southaustralia.com and now the seven-day format suits our program to perfection."
The Australian national squad never did win a stage or the general classification, although some Australians were successful. At the inaugural event in 1996, the late Damian McDonald won under the colours of trade team Giant-Australia.
The Australians had to field two races. "Our group of three selectors looked at who would be the best riders for the Tour Down Under and those for Le Tour de Langkawi", explained the technical director of Cycling Australia, Shayne Bannan.
Richie Porte was selected for Langkawi, despite finishing ninth last year in the Tour Down Under. The Tasmanian rider is again in good shape and he claimed the bronze medal at the Australian national time trial Championship behind three-time world champion Michael Rogers and Cameron Meyer. Meyer will also take part in Langkawi, with ProTour outfit Garmin-Slipstream. Cameron Wurf finished fourth at the time trial Championships and is also part of the Australian national team.
Wurf was set to race in Europe as a professional this year. "I was offered a contract with Silence-Lotto and I only found out in December that it wouldn't happen," said the former member of the Austrian team Volksbank. He makes his first appearance at the Asian season opener. "I'm delighted that at least I can use Le Tour de Langkawi to show the Pro Tour teams that I'm able to ride for them as I'm looking for a contract," Wurf said.
The 2009 Le Tour de Langkawi will feature 20 teams. The race starts in Putrajaya, the home of Malaysian government, and finishes in the country's capital, Kuala Lumpur, with the traditional criterium at Dataran Merdeka.
The Tour is organised by the Malaysian National Cycling Federation (MNCF) with the support of the Malaysian Government via the Ministry of Youth and Sports and sanctioned by the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) and Asian Cycling Confederation (ACC).
The Australian national team for Le Tour de Langkawi is Gene Bates, Jai Crawford, Richie Porte, Tim Roe, Adam Semple and Cameron Wurf.