Forthright in its ambitions for the 2017 Tour de Langkawi, Wilier Triestina has met its objective of a stage win for fast man Jakub Mareczko. However, new signing Alberto Cecchin has emerged as a genuine man for the overall podium as he currently sits third overall, forcing a rethink in how the Italian team approaches the final third of the race.
Starting his Wilier-Triestina career in Argentina at the Vuelta a San Juan, Cecchin lined out at the Tour of Oman before heading to Malaysia for the 2.HC stage race. The 27-year-old Italian is in position for a career-best result but needs to navigate three stages and the illness that is plaguing both him and the peloton.
"Asia is a difficult place, we knew it, it is tough for food and climate, so a lot of colleagues had problems, but it is part of cycling," Cecchin told TuttoBici and Cyclingnews.
Cecchin's last race in Asia came back in July where he placed fourth overall at the Tour of Qinghai Lake in the colours of Team Roth. That result then helped him secure the move across to Wilier-Triestina as Roth dropped from Pro Continental to Continental.
Primarily a man for the sprints, Cecchin showed his current form on the queen stage of the race to Cameron Highlands where he was fifth. The result elevated him onto the podium and into the battle for the general classification with teammate Filippo Pozzato singled out by Cecchin for his expertise.
"It was good for me and the team, it was not easy, on the last two climbs I followed Pozzato, because in the race he always leads me and the other young riders. On the last climb, I was in the first part of the peloton with Pippo and Mosca, we tried to keep the position even after the accelerations of Androni, we knew they wanted to make the race. I kept going until the end and I finished in fifth place. That gives me the right motivations for the GC."
Playing into Cecchin's hand for his bid to remain on the podium is his ability to contest the sprints where bonus seconds are up for grabs.
"We have to organize with the team, we have to decide if we want to attack the intermediate sprints," he said. "For sure we will look for victory with Mareczko, so yes we will focus on him for final and then if we have chance I can try the intermediate."
Of the three stages to come, stage 7 is one which Cecchin believes will best suit his characteristics and help him gain the five seconds needed to overhaul Cameron Bayly (Isowhey Sports Swisswellness) in second place.
Race leader Ryan Gibbons (Dimension Data) is 27 seconds ahead of Cecchin and all but assured of winning the overall. "They modified it and now is a little bit harder, it is a good chance for me because I always perform quite good on this kind of track, I'm quite fast and maybe some sprinters could be tired so I could try to ‘steal’ some seconds," he said.
While focused on the task at hand, Cecchin is also building his condition for the European classics where he will start Milan-San Remo and Three Days of De Panne. After that, a debut Giro d'Italia is on the cards. First though is the matter of securing the podium and helping Mareczko to another stage win.