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Malaysian race wants a more secure future
Following a couple of challenging years for the race, the Tour de Langkawi appears to be moving forward again more smoothly. It is hoped that a long-term commitment will be secured soon for the backing of the event.
The 15th edition of the race will be held on March 1-7 and, depending on how that goes, things may become more straightforward as regards the future of the seven-day contest.
"We have developed a plan with the Malaysian Government, the Malaysian National Cycling Federation [MNCF] and our sponsors for the next five years," LTDL Chief Executive Officer Mohamed bin Salleh said to Cyclingnews recently. "We hope to see it approved after the 2010 edition."
If commitment is given for that period, it should help both the race and Malaysian cycling to develop. Tourism should also benefit, as the event plays an important role in showcasing the landscape, culture and customs of Malaysia.
The 2.HC-ranked UCI Asia Tour event will take place three weeks later than the 2009 race. The date has been moved in order to avoid colliding with the Chinese New Year celebrations in February, and also to prevent an overlap with other Asian cycling races such as the Tours of Qatar and Oman.
A total of 20 teams are expected to travel for the event, which was won in 2009 by José Serpa (Diquigiovanni-Androni).
Aside from the date, Mohamed Salleh said that there will be an important change in the organisation of the race this coming season. It will be run by the Malaysian Youth and Sports Ministry, with the MNCF dropping back to the role of technical advisor. "The reason for this is because it is time to let the MNCF to fully focus on the development of our national cyclists, although we will still work together with the MNCF to ensure the success of LTDL," he said. "The most important thing is that the Tour will go on for many years to come.
"Since the MNCF's role has been shifted, I believe that in turn they will be able to fully focus in finding hidden talent among our young riders. We would like to have more world class cyclists such as the likes of Azizul Hasni, the current top track cyclist in Malaysia."
Mohamed Salleh feels that this and other events will help more young talents to emerge and, hopefully, this will in turn satisfy the ambition of having a Malaysian rider on the podium in the next few years.
The high-quality field means that any such result would be a very significant one for the country.
In addition, he's hoping that the race will be used by Malaysian riders in general as a stepping stone to international success. "LTDL has always been a launching pad for young riders who then came to achieve great success in their professional careers," he said.
That’s been the case for overseas competitors; now, it is hoped that the Malaysian riders can follow suit.