By Daniel Benson in Melaka, Malaysia
As the Tour of Langkawi moved into full swing on Tuesday, Garmin Slipstream's Directeur Sportif, Johnny Weltz, gave his impressions of the race so far and his insights on team tactics, riders to watch and how the race may develop.
Sitting on the bonnet of his Garmin team car before the start of stage two, the former US Postal director and ONCE rider gave his impressions on the race so far. "I know it's early in the race but by now the teams have figured who is competitive and who isn't and with the stages set to get harder and longer over the coming days each team has to be careful where and how they use their energies," Weltz said.
"That sounds pretty obvious but what we're seeing is a race with two speeds. The top European teams are competing against each other and then the smaller teams are racing at a level below that." Weltz's comments are backed up by the fact that both stages have ended in bunch sprints while Diquigionvanni-Androni, Garmin, Cervélo and AGR2 have been the most decisive teams at the front of the bunch.
Garmin narrowly missed out on victory in stage one and again came up short on stage two from Senawang to Melaka, with Chris Sutton finishing in 13th place after coming second the day before. "So far it's gone well for us with Chris getting support yesterday for the lead-out, although today was less successful. These things happen. We think our balance is good here though, with guys who can sprint and climb so it should be good for the rest of the race."
Weltz still pays attention to the smaller teams, though, who he believes could hold the key to the race with unknown hidden talents. "We pay them all respect as you could get a group go up the road with a Kazakh rider who could be the next Vino and the race develops so quickly that we have to be really attentive. So we do our research and find out who is who and what we can let get up the road." This includes scouting the local and national teams for riders to be watchful of and speaking to the local press.