By Jean-François Quénet in Kuala Lumpur
New Zealander Jeremy Yates will follow up his positive experience in last year's Tour de Langkawi, where he finished fourth overall, with a return to the event as part of the Malaysian continental team LeTua.
Yates will race alongside the team's climbers Tonton Susanto from Indonesia and Ng Li Yong who has returned to an organisation from his own country after three seasons racing overseas (with Liberty Seguros in Spain, Vitoria ASC in Portugal and Meitan-Hompo from Japan).
Yates is impatient to start Le Tour de Langkawi for the second time on Monday. A former junior world champion (Plouay, France, 200) Yates has temporarily stepped down from the professional ranks to take a job as a builder, but is anxious to get back into competition in Malyasia. "I found my first LTdL last year to be an amazing experience," he said. "The people stand out in my mind as being the most memorable part of it. They were always smiling, friendly and polite."
Yates looked really pleased to meet his new team-mates from LeTua at the team's launch in the headquarters of the Fuji bicycles in Puncak Alam on Friday. "I like the atmosphere of Malaysia and I have no problem with the humidity here," he said. "At Le Tour de Langkawi, I would like to go for the GC again this year but the team's first priority is for a stage win for a Malaysian rider, so I hope to contribute to that effort." However, he might have quite a lot of freedom as LeTua's famous sprinter Anuar Manan who finished second in the points classification last year now rides for the Malaysian national team.
"I came here with good form," Yates warned after coming third on stage 3, and fifth on GC in the recent Tour of Wellington in New Zealand. Yates will keep his Malaysian connection beyond Le Tour de Langkawi for the rest of the 2009 season. "This year I hope to race in Australia national series and the Herald Sun Tour again. I am leading the NZ national points series and have 10-15 race wins a year domestically. I would like to win Tour of Southland this year and also a stage race in Asian tours racing with LeTua. Next year I hope to return to full time racing with either a French or an American team."
At the age of 26, he reckons his best days are still to come.