After an innocuous crash at kilometre zero of the longest stage in this year's Tour de Langkawi in Jerteh, it initially looked like Filippo Pozzato's first participation in Asia's premier race was over. However, 208 kilometres later in Gerik, Pozzato was only narrowly beaten to the stage win by American Travis McCabe (UnitedHealthcare).
The result is Pozzato's first top-10 of the 2017 season, with the Wilier-Triestina rider coming close to ending his victory drought that extends back to 2013's GP Ouest France-Plouay.
"Another rider hit a cat eye on the road and took out my front wheel," Pozzato told Cyclingnews of the incident, with his chin and hand still bloody almost six hours after his fall.
"I don't understand why I crashed, because I was sat in the front and three metres in front of me, the bicycle of the rider hits my wheel and I crashed. For the first 10 minutes after the crash, I didn’t understand and didn't feel good, but now I feel good."
Wilier-Triestina started the race with Jakub Mareczko as its designated sprinter and Pozzato a key man for the lead out. With stage 2 featuring two challenging hills that proved too tough for Mareczko, a stage winner here last year, Pozzato became the man for the finale.
However, the 35-year-old was betting on a taking a flyer rather than mixing it up the sprint. Though Pozzato was unable to get the better of McCabe, he showcased his current form and condition by holding off the new race leader Ryan Gibbons (Dimension Data) for second place after the late tactical change.
"I didn't want to do the sprint because I saw the first guys in the sprint were faster than me. I wanted to try and attack in the last kilometre, and I asked the car what the last kilometre looked like," he explained. "It was perfect for an attack, but I think UnitedHealthcare was perfect in the final and were working very well, because they were very fast in the last 1.5km, so it was not possible for one second to attack. So I stayed in the wheel and tried for the sprint."
Pozzato and Wilier-Triestina will have another opportunity for sprint success Friday in Pantai Remis before Saturday's queen stage up Cameron Highlands, where he is tipping Androni's two Colombians, Egan Bernal and Ivan Sosa, to take the spoils.