Tinkoff's second guard will get the reins at Langkawi

Beltran and Hansen will lead team in Malaysian 2.HC race

Young Tinkoff-Saxo climbers Eduard Beltran and Jesper Hansen will get the chance to ride for themselves when the team heads to the eight-stage Tour of Langkawi in Malaysia March 8-15.

Sports director Tristan Hoffman said Tinkoff-Saxo's participation in Malaysia provides an opportunity for the younger riders to prove themselves while the team's mainstay leaders compete in Europe.

"We have two important programs in Europe coming ahead with Paris-Nice and Tirreno-Adriatico, and we will use Langkawi as a way to have the remaining riders take part in a race," Hoffman said. "It's important that they race in this period of the year."

Along with Beltran and Hansen, Bruno Pires, Pavel Brutt, Michael Kolar and Nikolay Trusov will compete in Langkawi. Kolar and Trusov will be targeting the sprints, while Beltran and Hansen will make a run at the general classification.

"Many of the stages are flat except for stage seven that finishes on the Genting Highlands with a serious climb to 1,650m, while stage three and six also feature a hilly parcours," Hoffman said.

"Kolar is getting back into full form after struggling a bit with illness, and Trusov is in good shape as well. These are the two riders that will do the sprints. We'll decide who will do the lead out and who will spearhead the sprint depending on who feels the best on the day."

Jesper Hansen, who is in his second season on the WorldTour level, said he is looking forward to representing the team's GC ambitions at Langkawi.

"I'm focused on giving my best and doing a good job for my team," said the 24-year-old Dane. “I also rode Langkawi last year, where I felt well on the traditional queen stage of the race to Genting Highlands.

"It looks like this stage will once again decide the GC, so Beltran and I will have to stay at the front, be aware of breakaways and do our best on the final 19.6km climb."

Hansen said the race can be particularly difficult because of the hot tropical conditions.

"Last year, we rode in 40° C throughout the race with a high humidity," he said. "Hydration is absolutely essential, so it's normal to see everybody drinking 10 bottles per stage. And it's just as important to be in good shape in order to cope with the conditions.

"I got some really important speed into the legs at Tour of Qatar," Hansen said, “so I'm looking forward to getting started."

The race is slightly shorter this year, featuring just eight stages instead of the usual 10 days of racing. Teams are also limited to just six riders each.

"It might be less demanding, but it will not be much easier, since the shorter stages will be raced at a faster pace," Hoffman said. "We have to be careful with the big breakaways and be present in them. With the teams being smaller and consisting of only six riders, we have to be ready to go into the breakaway.

"If you want to protect a few riders it is important to be there, since you don't have many riders to pull at the front."

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