It took a while to Andrea Guardini to come up with his first win of his second pro season, but he now looks unstoppable as he claimed his third victory in a row at Le Tour de Langkawi in Muar. It came at the end of a thrilling finale with the four men breakaway being caught only in the last 100 metres of racing.
“This is the nicest win of my career because it has required a lot of sweating and suffering,” he said after the race. “With 30 kilometres to go and a five-minute deficit to the breakaway, we still believed that a bunch sprint finish was possible when everyone else seemed to think that it was game over. We decided to do the whole work no matter what and I thank Astana for their contribution to the chase. [Alexandre] Vinokourov has demonstrated once again today that he is a lord of cycling. He didn’t only ask his team-mates to chase but he went to the front himself as well. All the other teams not represented in the breakaway only rode this stage for placing, not for winning.”
Europcar’s Kevin Reza was the last man caught with the finishing line in sight. He still made the top 10 (8th) while Terengganu’s Shinichi Fukushima finished 15th and New Zealand’s Louis Crosby 18th. “With 30km to go, we calculated that we needed to regain ten seconds per kilometer and we respected this plan with an absolute precision,” said Guardini, whose Farnese Vini-Selle Italia team was reduced to five riders after the retirement of Rafael Andriato in the aftermath of his stage two crash. He explained the reason for the enormous margin he won with: “I’ve expressed my rage in the final straight. This victory was coming from so far out that I wasn’t just happy to win. I wanted to win it big time with style.”
After stage 4 in the 10-day long Le Tour de Langkawi, Guardini has already scored a hat trick previously achieved in Malaysia by Luciano Pagliarini (in 2003), Alberto Loddo (in 2007) and Mattia Gavazzi (in 2009). Adding the five stage wins he got at this race for his pro debut last year, he made for himself a total of eight in Muar. He’s now only one success down on the record holder Graeme Brown who bagged nine stages of Le Tour de Langkawi in three different attempts: two in 2002, two in 2003 and five in 2005.
“I’m probably able to reach this record,” Guardini admitted. “But I prefer to take it day by day. Whether I’ll give an attempt to win stage 5 or not will depend on the rest of my team more than on me. They have spent so much energy today that we first to see tomorrow what’s left in the tank.” Stage five has the category two climb of Genting Perez 40km away from the finish in Pandan Indah in the suburbs of Kuala Lumpur, so it might be a different scenario, notably because of the super motivation showed by the Astana team. After stage six, which is the uphill finish at the grueling climb of Genting Highlands, the sprinters will have four other possibilities to express themselves.
“I’m in good form after racing a lot already this year,” said Guardini, who failed to bank a stage victory at the Tour of San Luis, the Tour of Qatar or the Tour of Oman. “I haven’t won before coming to Malaysia partly because of bad luck and partly because of my rivals being stronger than me on these occasions. In needed to find the warm climate and the warm welcome of this country here to get the confidence I was lacking. I love racing in Malaysia.”