By Ben Abrahams in Kuantan, Malaysia
Mountain or molehill? That was the question riders and journalists were asking after Le Tour de Langkawi's King of the Mountains jersey was awarded on Thursday afternoon in Bandar Penawar. At just 600 metres long with a gradient of no more than five percent, the category four ascent to decide the mountains classification leader was more suited to stocky sprinters than mountain goats, evidenced by its winner Christoph Meschenmoser (Team Ista).
And with just one more 'mountain' remaining on the race route - the significantly harder climb to Fraser Hill on Saturday, classified 'Hors categorie' (beyond categorisation), the question must surely be asked: why bother with a mountains jersey at all? According to race director Michael Robb, the short climb was only there to "give a little interest" before Saturday's summit finish.
"The KOM of course was very short and quite an easy gradient," Robb told Cyclingnews. "But it's been a very, very flat route. It was just to give a little interest. It's up to the organisation to determine the gradient of the climb and its classification. That's bike racing, you can have a hard climb or an easier one."
President of commissaires Madis Lepajõe from the UCI echoed Robb's sentiments, and said that he had seen such short climbs before. "I think I have, yes. Not very often, but I have.
"This was just to play out the King of the Mountains jersey and to give the possibility to demonstrate the jersey," he added. "So it was no serious climb and category four is the most easy climb.
"I think this is more a matter of advertising. Every publicity is good publicity. One more jersey - it's good for the sponsor, it's good for the race and the image of cycling here. There's no problem with that."
Never before used at Le Tour de Langkawi, Saturday's Fraser Hill itself remains something of a mystery, with riders quizzing each other about its difficulty at the post-race press conference after stage seven. "Fraser Hill is quite an easy gradient to start with," explained Robb. "It's long, I think it's about 22 kilometres or more. It's quite gradual to start with, but constant climbing. Then the last number of kilometres it's quite steep."