A more compact 14th edition with the return to Genting
By Jean-François Quénet
The 2009 Le Tour de Langkawi, launched on Thursday in Putrajaya, Malaysia, will be more manageable for the teams as it features less days of racing as in the past. The 14th edition of the stage race, taking place from February 9 to 15, will be seven days long instead of twelve or nine days in recent years.
"We often heard from overseas teams that nine or ten days was very long for the beginning of the season," said the Chief Operating Officer Datuk Naim Mohamad, who attended International Cycling Union (UCI) congresses and seminaries in Europe and realised that besides the Grand Tours, the most successful stage races like Paris-Nice, Tirreno-Adriatico, the Tour de Romandie or the Dauphiné Libéré are one week long.
Teams have also been accommodated with a transfers-free event as it will start near Kuala Lumpur International airport in Putrajaya – the administrative centre of the Malaysian government – and end with the traditional and spectacular Kuala Lumpur criterium finishing on Dataran Merdeka (Independence Square) in front of the Sultan Aziz Shah building.
Malaysia's historical town of Melaka, classified as world's heritage, will be the heart of the highest-ranked cycling event in Asia for three days. Bunch sprints are expected for the first half of the race in the south west of the country, although there will be some climbs every day in contrast to the 2008 edition when the first king of the mountains jersey was awarded on stage six.
The event will also return to the gruelling climb of Genting Highlands that was scratched from this year's race due to road works and Chinese New Year celebrations. As the replacement with Fraser's Hill wasn't up to par, Le Tour de Langkawi will find its trademark again and suit the climbers. Winner in 2007, Crédit Agricole's Anthony Charteau, found the way to beat the pure climbers from South America. Moldavian Ruslan Ivanov of Diquigiovanni succeeded him on the record book in 2008.
Twenty teams are expected to take part in the 1029.3km-long hors catégorie event. ProTour and Pro Continental teams from Europe and America, Continental teams and national teams from Asia, Oceania and Africa will line up as it is common that all five continents are represented in Malaysia. Three local teams will also participate: the Malaysian national team and the two UCI-registered Continental teams MCF and Le Tua.
Le Tour de Langkawi is organised by the Malaysian National Cycling Federation (MNCF) with the support of the Ministry of Youth and Sport (KBS). "Malaysians are really lucky to have a government which is totally committed and has a serious outlook at the value of organising an event of massive proportion such as the Le Tour de Langkawi," said the chairman of the race, Hj Abu Samah Hj Abd Wahab, who is also the president of the MNCF.
The stages of the 2009 Le Tour de Langkawi list as follows:
Stage 1 - February 9: Putrajaya-Senawang, 135km
Stage 2 - February 10: Senawang-Melaka, 161.7km
Stage 3 - February 11: Melaka-Melaka, 186km
Stage 4 - February 12: Melaka-Bandar Baru Bangi, 222.2km
Stage 5 - February 13: Petaling Jaya-Genting Highlands, 95.6km
Stage 6 - February 14: Batang Kali-Shah Alam, 148.4km
Stage 7 - February 15: KL criterium, 80.4km