Both riders and their bikes are ready for the 19th edition of Le Tour de Langkawi, and as the race motto goes, the heat was indeed back - both literally and figuratively.
A strong field assembled for the team presentation on the tiny island off of the Malaysian west coast in steamy conditions, with the "hot favorite", Pieter Weening (Orica-GreenEdge), looking to move up from his second place finish in last year's race, but is unsure of his current state of form.
“Last year it was my first time in Malaysia and I came second in Le Tour de Langkawi. I hope to do better this year! For many of the Europeans, it’s the first race of the year. I don’t know how good my shape is. In my preparation, I’ve been dealing with food poisoning and crashes but now I’m feeling good. Stage 4 to Genting Highlands will be the main stage for the overall classification.”
Belkin's Theo Bos is also looking for some revenge after being knocked out of last year's event by illness after winning two stages. "Looking at the map, there’s a potential for a lot of bunch sprints, probably eight or nine out of ten stages. I haven’t won a race yet this year but I rode the Tour of Qatar and the legs were feeling good."
The Tour de Langkawi allows teams of only six riders, making it more challenging for the sprinters' teams to control the race and line up a powerful lead-out, but Bos is confident that his Belkin team can get the job done.
"We have a well-balanced team with excellent lead-out men for me," Bos said. "It’s great to have an Olympic champion, Graeme Brown, and the individual pursuit world record holder, Jack Bobridge, in front of me before sprinting but there’ll be a big competition between all the teams who came here with a sprinter. I’ve seen in Qatar that [Orica-GreenEdge’s] Aidis Kruopis is in very good shape. Andrea Guardini should be as good as usual and also Francesco Chicchi.