The 21st edition of Le Tour de Langkawi will kick off from Kangar in the north west of peninsular Malaysia on February 24. It will follow an unprecedented route on the west coast with a return to the island of Penang sixteen years after its last visit, and will feature a first ever grand finale in the historic city of Malacca on March 2nd after eight days of racing.
"With the new tagline ‘Redefining Asia's Ultimate Challenge', we've got great plans, not only for this year," said Minister of Youth and Sports YB Khairy Jamaluddin. "We believe our product is better than the other tours in Asia. We provide unforgettable experiences for the riders. In twenty years of existence, Le Tour de Langkawi has not only put Malaysia on the map of Asian cycling but all over the world."
For the eighth time since the inception of the event in 1996, Le Tour de Langkawi will not hold any stage or team presentation on the island of Langkawi. "But the race still delivers a documentary to promote Langkawi as a holiday destination all around the world," CEO Emir Abdul Jalal said as he introduced a route that also does not the famous queen stage to Genting Highlands for a second year running, due to renovation works towards the summit of Malaysia's game resort.
The Cameron Highlands will host the hardest stage on day four. "It'll make a more open race until the very end," predicted Khairy who, at 39, is a keen cyclist himself and trains three to five times a week with the intention of taking part in "L'Etape du Tour" in France this year or next year.
"Out of eight stages, four will likely end in a bunch sprint but four can have different scenarios," technical director Jamaluddin Mahmood told Cyclingnews. One of the interesting new courses will be on stage 2 to the island of Penang. It contains two serious climbs before the finish in Georgetown, which was an iconic location during the first four editions of Le Tour de Langkawi. Italy's Enrico Degano remains the last rider to have won on the island. The recent construction of Penang Second Bridge allows the first visit of the race in the 21st century.
Being held for the first time on an eight-day format from a Wednesday to a Wednesday, Kuala Lumpur will not host the grand finale but instead the sprinters' queen stage on a quieter Sunday afternoon. "It's a good year for us to promote Malacca," Emir noted. "Our 8.3km final circuit, to be covered three times, will go through all historical areas of the city including Jonker street."
The 22 teams are yet to be revealed but comprise 11 from the World Tour and Pro Continental ranks and 11 from Asia. Youcef Reguigui won last year's edition of the Tour de Langkawi, beating Astana's Valerio Agnoli by nine seconds.