By Greg Johnson in Genting Highlands, Malaysia
Australia's Jai Crawford moved a step closer to his dream of winning the Tour of Langkawi's queen stage Friday with a second place finish on Genting Highlands. His result topped an impressive day for the Australian National Team, with the squad landing three riders in the top 20.
"To be on the podium at the moment, I'm really happy with that," said Crawford. He added that it's the best day of his professional career.
"I had a really good solo win in Tour of Wellington, but this is a big race, there are some big names here. It's not the end though; I've still got to hold onto second a couple more days."
The national team faces a dominant Team Diquigiovanni-Androni. Its rider José Serpa leads the overall after winning the stage Friday.
Jackson Rodriguez and Carlos José Ochoa attacked Crawford as their Diquigiovanni-Androni teammate Serpa rode away. The 25-year-old managed to shake his Venezuelan opponents and set off in pursuit of Serpa, but finished just 23 seconds behind the Colombian.
"I didn't expect to have three Diquigiovanni-Androni guys there with me," said Crawford. "I think they were foxing a little bit – they were saying in the media that their general classification guy was crook."
Crawford's teammate Cameron Wurf had helped explode the lead group earlier. He drove hard as the race reached the 20-kilometre climb. Despite his efforts, Wurf still managed to be the 17th man up the mountain, with compatriot and teammate Ritchie Porte in 11th place.
"That's what we come here for. We've been in the waiting room for four days; to get Jai up there today," said team director Brian Stephens.