By Greg Johnson in Genting Highlands, Malaysia
Australia's Jai Crawford is determined to maintain his top five position in the Tour de Langkawi, after the Tasmanian catapulted from 22nd to fifth with a red-hot sprint on today's grueling Genting Highlands climb. The Tour of Siam winner will face stiff competition in the remaining two stages, with Crédit Agricole and Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Selle Italia expected to push the pace high as they battle for the general classification win.
"I think I can maintain fifth, I should get over the climbs the next couple of days," said Crawford. "It's a long stage tomorrow, but I'm riding for fifth place so I'll give it everything I've got!"
While Crawford is hopeful of holding out his better known rivals, the Tasmanian acknowledged the task ahead will not be easy. "I think tomorrow is going to be tough, because the Crédit Agricole guys only have the yellow jersey by 60 seconds," he admitted. "My team is going to be tired as well from a long week and yeah, it should be tough."
Today's stunning climb up the notorious Genting Highlands stage marked a significant milestone in Crawford's comeback, after glandular fever prevented the former U23 MTB national representative from competing in Europe last season.
"It went really well, both personally and also for the team," said Crawford. "We got Ghader Mizbani up there, who has taken the Asian riders jersey back and I think we've got a decent gap now. It's fantastic you know. It's very, very satisfying. It makes all the hard work that I've done over the past few years all worth while."
Crawford's ride wasn't the only show of strength from the Giant Asia Racing Team, with the outfit reclaiming the Asian rider's jersey from Shinichi Fukushima and knocking the Japanese rider's Nippo-Meitan Hompo team off the top spot in the Asian team's classification. GART also sits in a strong position on the outright team's classification, just one second behind yellow jersey holding Crédit Agricole.