Caleb Ewan (Orica-GreenEdge) and Andrea Guardini (Astana) may have stolen the spotlight at the Tour de Langkawi but there’s another up and coming 20-year-old sprinter looking to make a breakthrough of his own.
Jakub Mareckzo (Southeast) , a Polish-born Italian, raised eyebrows when he won two stages of the Vuelta al Tachira in January. Here in Malaysia he is racing at HC level for the first time in his career, and eager to make the most of the experience. And who better to learn from than Alessandro Petacchi? The 41-year-old secured his first professional victory in Langkawi in 1998 and has since gone onto 184 career wins, including 48 Grand Tour stages.
The Italian veteran is now into his 18th season as a professional, and is playing the role of lead-out man as well as mentor for Mareczko.
“Having Alessandro there is an inspiration for me,” said Mareczko. “He is very good with me because he helps me, gives me guidance, tells me what is good, he is a good rider for me. He gives me much experience because he has ridden his bike for such a long time.
“The whole team is good with me and there are many guys with me in the team that help me.”
Unlike Ewan, Mareczko is yet to register a win in Malaysia, unable to contest the sprints on the first and third days due to a puncture and a lack of climbing proficiency respectively. Third place on stage two and second on stage four suggest he’s knocking on the right door and they have only made him even hungrier.
“I’m very happy with my performance [on stage four],” he said. “The whole team worked very well for me but I haven’t got a stage win and that’s not very good.
“There are many stages left in this tour and when it finishes I think I will have won one.”
At such a young age and in his first season as a professional, there’ll be plenty of learning curves to come. Next on the agenda are Scheldeprijs, the Three days of De Panne, and the Tour of Turkey, where he will meet an even higher calibre of sprint talent. Like Ewan, he stresses that the experience is the main thing.
“I try to gain experience. Last year I never did a tour of eight stages. I have done a tour of four stages but this year I try to do a new experience and try to achieve new results. I’m learning lessons, I’m trying, and if I can take a podium it’s even better.”
Luca Amoriello, directeur sportif at Southeast, seems to have little doubt as to the potential of his young sprinter.
“Jakub is very young, a very strong sprinter, and this year he can win a big race,” he said. “He needs a little bit more experience in the sprint but I think he can win very soon. He has lots of talent.”
When asked if he had as much as Petacchi the reply was: “Wait and see."