By Greg Johnson in Genting Highlands, Malaysia
Le Tour de Langkawi yellow jersey holder Anthony Charteau expects a tough battle to ensue in the remaining two stages, after the Crédit Agricole rider had his lead shaved back to 62 seconds on today's Genting Highlands. Charteau entered the stage with a handy 3.36 gap to Japan's Shinichi Fukushima but had the margin slashed by stage 8 victor Jose Serpa, who finished today's stage exactly 3.36 ahead of 10th placed Charteau.
"It was really, really painful for me today, but it will remain a good day in my memory," said Charteau. "It's going to be another hard day tomorrow and it's going to require more teamwork but I'm confident that my team can do it again."
Charteau will have to fend off attacks by not one but two Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Selle Italia riders, with Serpa's teammate Walter Pedraza holding third place 1.34 behind the French leader.
"We hoped the leader might back down but he defended very well and so I think it's right that he is the [leader]," noted Selle Italia team manager Gianni Savio. "But, the Tour de Langkawi is not finished. So tomorrow there is another stage, and we will attack also tomorrow."
While significantly further back, Crédit Agricole will also need to keep a keen eye on South Africa's David George. The two-time victor and reigning champion of the Tour de Langkawi currently holds fourth place, a manageable 3.39 behind Charteau.
Meanwhile, Charteau, who was delighted to learn he still held the GC lead, has said he's on the verge of accomplishing a lifelong dream.
"If I win the Tour de Langkawi on Sunday it's going to be my first stage race [win], and winning a stage race is something I've dreamed about for a long time," he said.