By Jean-François Quénet in Faro
Vitoria ASC's new signing Ng Yong Li is introduced by his Portuguese staff as "Mister Crash Man" for his European debut at the Volta ao Algarve. The first Malaysian pro cyclist impressed his new employers enough at the Tour de Langkawi to be selected for Portugal's main cycling event in the early part of the year.
In the mountain stage of the Cameron Highlands, he was seventh in the first King of the Mountains classification although there were four men away from the bunch including eventual winner Anthony Charteau. Yong Li was climbing with the likes of José Serpa and Thomas Voeckler, but he crashed with two kilometers to go to the finishing line in Brinchang. The three kilometer rule didn't apply that day. He still finished 31st on GC while the second best Malaysian was 75th. He also had a decent ride in Genting Highlands where he climbed alongside Sandy Casar. The 21-year-old from Batu Pahat near Johor Bahru is a true climber, although he has yet has to show those talents while injury-free.
Last Sunday, he made his debut in Europe with Vitoria ASC in the Portuguese opening race called Trofeu Abertura RDP held in Faro, where stage 1 of the Tour of Algarve also finished. Unfortunately, he crashed again. "It was a big pile up implicating many riders, and I just couldn't avoid it", the Malaysian explained. Since then, he has suffered pain in his left hip.
He wasn't sure he would be able to ride the Tour of Algarve beforehand, but he finished stage 1 just 5:39 behind the bunch. "I could follow until 10km to go, he said. But I had a lot of pain all day, and I couldn't race hard. I feel sorry about that."
Ng Yong Li is a dedicated cyclist who doesn't want to disappoint his new team. "We are determined to develop him and we'll be patient", his directeur sportif José Silva said, even after the cyclist's crashes and injuries.