Having taken a break from cycling in 2016, Malaysian Loh Sea Keong (Thailand Continental Cycling Team) is back with a vengeance at the Tour de Langkawi. Three stages into the race and the 30-year-old has been active in the breakaways driven by the ambition of winning a stage.
In 21 previous editions of the 2.HC race, just one Malaysian has won a stage, Anaur Manan in 2010, a statistic that Keong is determined to change in 2017.
"I try to get away and maybe one day we get a big gap get a stage win," he told Cyclingnews after the stage 3 finish in Pantai Remis and another day in the break. "It depends on who is in the break, but unfortunately today ended up with only three guys with smaller capabilities of going into the final.
"If we have a few guys with bigger engines, then maybe we can make it. It also depends if the peloton hesitates or they really want a bunch sprint. They really wanted a bunch sprint today and we got nowhere."
Keong and his breakaway companion, Stepan Astafyev (Vino Astana Motors), were caught inside four kilometers to race, with Jakub Mareczko (Wilier Triestina) winning the bunch sprint.
With Saturday the Queen stage of the race up Cameron Highlands, Keong will rest his legs and let the GC men battle it out for the victory. From stage 5 onwards, he will again commit to his goal of victory on appearance number 11 in Langkawi.
"Maybe after the queen stage I can get a break going and stay away to the finish line," he said. "It is an honour to race my home race with any team. I have been racing with a few teams during my career and still looking for that stage win in my home race. That is my goal."
A professional since 2006 with the Marco Polo squad, Keong moved to OCBC Singapore in 2012, putting together two solid seasons and earning a contract with Argos-Shimano. He remains the only Southeast Asian to have ridden in the top tier of the sport.
After the 2014 season with the team, he moved across to the Continental SEG Racing the following year before a hiatus of sorts in 2016. This year, he is back in the peloton with the Thailand Continental Cycling Team and looking to lay the foundation for a successful season with a Langkawi stage win.
"I am pretty happy with what I am doing now. I am trying to come back and race in Asia again after I left Europe two years ago," said the 2013 Jelajah Malaysia winner. "I had a year's absence last year not doing anything. This year I have a team going and hope to get more racing in the legs and more opportunity in those 2.2 races and maybe 2.HC races as well."