By Greg Johnson in Genting Highlands, Malaysia
José Serpa of Team Diquigiovanni-Androni is set to claim his first Tour de Langkawi victory in two day's time thanks to Friday's win up the Genting Highlands climb. Despite being unbeaten on the 1679-metre climb during his two previous attempts, Serpa has never won the 2.HC race.
"It will be difficult and hard but I think we will be able to win Tour de Langkawi," said team manager Gianni Savio. "I think we have a good team and are able to work on the flat."
There are two, flat stages remaining in this year's event. The stage race shortened to seven stages from its traditional 10 stages. Tomorrow the rides face the 147.6-kilometre stage from Batang Kali to Shah Alam and then an 80.4-kilometre criterium in Kuala Lumpur Sunday.
In 2007 Serpa won the Genting stage, but a solo attack earlier in the race saw Frenchman Anthony Charteau take and retain a commanding hold on the race. One year earlier, the Colombian was unable to take enough time out of South African David George on his way to the stage win to top the overall standings.
Savio laughed off the suggestion he could claim every jersey in next year's event if he brings an Asian rider. In addition to Serpa's yellow jersey, the Italian's team currently holds both the mountain and sprint jerseys with former race leader Mattia Gavazzi.
"No, no, no, no," he said. "My philosophy is to honour the race. We will be very happy if we're able to win overall classification."
If Serpa can hold on to his lead through to the close of Sunday's criterium, the general classification win will be the fourth by Savio's team in the race's 14-year history. The squad first won in 2002 with Hernan Dario Munoz and again in 2004 with Fredy González. Its most recent victory came at last year's event, where Ruslan Ivanov took victory.
The win would see Diquigiovanni-Androni overtake Team Mapei as the team to claim the most titles at one of Asia's biggest races.