By Greg Johnson in Langkawi, Malaysia
Hard-charging Koji Fukushima is disappointed he didn't take victory in the Tour de Langkawi's opening stage today, after leading from the start right through to the closing section of the 82 kilometre stage. The Nippo-Meitan Hompo rider attacked early to lead the first 70 kilometres of today's stage, taking the King of the Mountains and both sprint victories along the way, before being caught by the peloton in the closing 10 kilometres.
"Every year there are many, many great teams in the Tour de Langkawi, so I was very afraid to be caught," said Fukushima following the race. "I wanted success today, but I will still try to keep attacking through the Tour also."
Fukushima now leads the Mountains and Asian rider classifications and is equal on points in the sprints classifications but says he still wants to take a stage victory for his team in one of the remaining nine stages.
"For me, I'm proud of this," he said. "But I don't want to concentrate to only keep the Asian jersey, because if we could win one stage it would be great for us. Today, I was very lucky; from tomorrow, it will be hard but I will still try hard to attack."
The quirky Japanese rider enjoys rock-star status within the Asia region, aided by his fluency in most local languages. Fukushima, who recently finished fourth in the Tour of Siam, handed out hundreds of postcards of himself to adoring fans at both the start and finish of today's stage, before continuing his post press conference tradition of playing the harmonica.
Le Tour de Langkawi participants will now board a ferry back to mainland Malaysia, where the remaining nine stages will be held, starting with tomorrow's 166 kilometre Stage 2.