The summit finish on the queen stage of the 2015 Tour de Langkawi has been altered just a day before the race is due to start.
Race organisers announced on Saturday that the climb to Genting Highlands on the penultimate stage has been scrapped due to safety concerns arising from the heavy machinery and construction work being carried out to renovate the resort. The stage will instead finish atop Fraser’s Hill, a shorter and gentler climb, in a move that will alter the complexion of the race.
Despite the official health and safety line, Cyclingnews understands that a failure on the part of the Tour de Langkawi and Genting Malaysia - which owns the mountain and its roads - to come to a sponsorship agreement could lie behind the decision. It has been suggested that the company has been reluctant to host the stage from a tourism and publicity point of view, not wanting to showcase its resort in its current machinery-ridden state.
The company has been a sponsor of the race since its inception in 1996 and its mountain has become the marquee feature of the race, the general classification so often decided on its slopes. This year, though, there doesn’t appear to be a sponsorship agreement in place, despite the planned inclusion of the climb which goes up roads owned privately by the resort.
There hasn’t been the customary announcement about the company’s continued sponsorship of the race and its logo isn’t to be seen on the race’s website, nor at the team presentation today, although it does appear on some race documentation.
Asked whether or not Genting Malaysia was a sponsor of the race, technical director Geoff Kronenburg said: “We are not at liberty to discuss that situation at this point in time. We are still supporting each other. When we finish at Fraser’s we will still transfer and stay in Genting. In that respect there is a show of common support.”
He insisted that Genting was still keen to host and that the decision was made purely on safety grounds.
“We were working with the occupational safety hazard people and everyone involved, trying to find the best solution without affecting the safety of the riders. At the end of the day safety of the riders and everyone involved is the ultimate priority. I’m not going to compromise that.”
“We were working with the management at Genting right up to the 11th hour and right up to 3 o’clock they were asking if they could hold. But by 4pm I had to have a team manager’s meeting and I had to make a decision. It’s best to make the decision now rather than halfway through the race when strategies change."
Kronenburg also allayed question marks over whether this would affect the 2HC categorisation of the race.
“There are several conditions about HC status, it's not just centred around one HC climb,” he said. “The UCI states certain security, operational and safety conditions that you have to have to attain your HC.
“For 19 years Malaysia has run a very good race. I just spoke with the president of the commissaires’ panel and I am in no doubt about maintaining our HC status because we maintain that operational quality.”