By Daniel Benson in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Despite an ultimately unsuccessful breakaway on stage four of the Tour of Langkawi, New Zealand's Jeremy Yates walked away with the lead in the King of the Mountains competition of five points over Christoff Van Heerden (South Africa). He is currently ninth overall, 37 seconds behind Italian Mattia Gavazzi.
With tomorrow's crucial stage finishing at the peak of Genting Highlands, Yates, who finished fourth overall in 2007, knows that with the right tactics and another stellar ride he can compete with the best for both the overall and mountain titles.
"Today worked out well. Yeah, getting caught so close to the finish is a frustration but I climbed well and took maximum points on both climbs," said Yates with a shrug. "The group were working so well though and near the top of the last climb I just put my head down and gave it everything,"
Yates broke away with seven other riders after the first intermediate sprint and spent most of the remaining kilometres off the front. He took maximum points on the first climb up to Bukit Tangga and was later joined by breakaway companion Van Heerden (South Africa) and crested the last climb with a small lead.
With 30 kilometres to go an unlikely victory was still possible, but with the long exposed roads leading to the finish at Bandar Baru Bangi, the advantage was always with the peloton. "It was backs to wall stuff with me and the South African but we both knew we had to give it everything. We did what we could and I have to say he was great, too. I found him after the finish and we shook hands."
Despite Yates being gobbled up by the hungry bunch before the line, his teammate Samai went on to take the stage and arguably the biggest win of his and the team's history. "It gives us rock star status in Langkawi and I'm so stoked for him."
As for tomorrow, Yates remains optimistic: "Tomorrow is a tough stage but we have climbers like Ng Yong Li and I'll try and hang on to this jersey through blood sweat and tears."
Tomorrow will see the riders tackle a 102 kilometre stage from Petaling Jaya to Genting Highlands. The climb is set to decide the overall winner of this year's event after four relatively flat stages and two more to follow.