Estonian cycling living legend Jaan Kirsipuu, a former yellow jersey of the Tour de France for five days in 1999, resumed racing after becoming a directeur sportif for Latvian team Rietumu Bank last year. For the second part of the 2009 season, he will be heading to Asia to compete with the Malaysian continental team LeTua. He'll make the trip with another famous recruit Colombian Walter Pedraza who rode for Diquigiovanni and Tinkoff in the past few years.
Aged 40, Kirsipuu is enjoying a different way of cycling - as a lifestyle approach to travelling the world and racing. With various teams, he has won stages in the category two UCI races like the Tour of Cameroon, the Tour of Morocco and FDB Ras in Ireland this year.
Asia will be a new cycling world for Kirsipuu. "He contacted us," said team manager Shukor Yassin who was surprised and honoured as he was when Pedraza asked him for a ride through the team's climber Ng Yong Li, who speaks Spanish after his experience racing with the Under 23 Liberty Seguros team. The Colombian Pedraza finished the Tour of Spain last year and was third at the Tour of Burgos just as he was at Le Tour de Langkawi two years ago.
"Our main objective as we sign these establish riders is to improve our overall team strength”, Yassin said. "We hope to become one of the top UCI teams in Asia. At the same time, we want to bring big experience to our team so than our own Malaysian riders can gain valuable experience for their own development and shape into great cyclists for the future of Malaysian road cycling. This will also create excitement and healthy competition within the Malaysian cycling community.”
The LeTua team gained drew attention with its win at the hors categorie (HC) race this year when its Indonesian sprinter Samai claimed stage four at Le Tour de Langkawi in February.
LeTua has now 16 riders registered with the UCI: eight Malaysians, three Indonesians (including South East Asian veteran star Tonton Susanto), one Singaporean (19-year-old and very promising Low Ji Wen), one New Zealander (Jeremy Yates), one Romanian (Lars Pria) and the two new recruits.