By Greg Johnson & Ben Abrahams in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
After being relegated and fined for causing a sprint finish collision just two days ago, Mauro Abel Richeze (CSF Group-Navigare) cleared his name with a clean and commanding bunch sprint victory in the race finale. Richeze simply out-paced his rivals on the 80.4-kilometre stage, with the group finish ensuring Moldavian Ruslan Ivanov (Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli) claimed the overall classification.
"My win today has mostly brought my team what it deserved having worked hard," said Richeze. "The other day it was not my intention at all to make anybody crash. I felt very sorry for the guys who crashed and I felt sorry for our team's jersey."
Mauro's victory sees the Argentinean join his brother, Maximiliano, on the list of stage winners at the Malaysian race. Maximiliano won the second stage of last year's race while riding for the same outfit, then called Ceramica Panaria - Navigare.
"Today it was not a very hard job for me because my team worked a lot and just let me sprint," he explained.
Ivanov entered the final stage with a 29 second margin over former yellow jersey Matthieu Sprick (Bouygues Telecom), but the Frenchman's team was satisfied with the points jersey worn by Swiss rider Aurélien Clerc, with the French ProTour squad not attempting to steal back time with bonuses offered on the stage.
The Venezuelan Serramenti PVC squad controlled the peloton throughout the race, with the entire squad controlling the breakaway's gap from the front of the peloton. Despite showing their strength on the stage, star sprinter Danilo Hondo didn't contend for the stage victory, with the German still bruised and battered after being caught up in the crash caused by Richeze on Friday.
"I was more happy yesterday than I was today when I crossed the line," admitted Ivanov, indicating today's stage was just a formality. "I said it yesterday and I'll say it today; I'm here because of Gianni Savio and Marco Bellini, who have given me the possibility of going back to a big team, that's why the team deserves the victory as much as I do today."
The Tour de Langkawi has marked a special moment in Ivanov's career, with the former Moldavian road champion spending the past two years without a professional contract. Ivanov turned professional in 1998 with Brescialat but despite recording 16 victories over the years that have passed found himself without a team after 2005, until Savio offered to take the now 34 year-old on for this season.
"It's impossible to describe the feeling I have now, but I hope that this result is the start of a new career for me," he said. "It gives me confidence for looking ahead. I want to repay the team later this year as I have done here at the Tour de Langkawi."
Read the full report from the final stage of the Tour de Langkawi.