The Tour de Langkawi has always provided a good shop window of young potential, as many teams send youthful squads to the Malaysian Island. This year is no different.
There are a number of young riders who are capable of success in the overall classification. Last year’s winner Julián Arredondo will not be making a return after he was snatched up by Trek Factory racing over the winter. Another young Colombian is one of the favourites to take succeed him. Esteban Chaves (Orica-GreenEDGE) had a rough time of it lat season, but has been touted as one of the next big things by his team manager Matt White. The 24-year-old has already proved his talent with overall victory at the 2011 Tour de l’Avenir.
Hot on his heels is another youngster in Natnael Barhane. The Eritrean was belatedly awarded the overall classification at the Tour of Turkey, he also kicked off this year by beating Luis Leon Sánchez at the La Tropicale Amissa Bongo. South Africa’s Louis Meintjes will be showing off his new national champion’s jersey for the first time at the race. He’s not as experienced as some of his rivals, but has already showed off some of his nous with his second place in the U23 road race at the Worlds last year and beating Daryl Impey to the South African title.
Despite its name, only the opening stage of this year’s Tour de Langkawi will actually race along the island’s road. In fact this is the first time the race has visited the land that gave it its name, since the 2011 edition. Stage 1 will take in almost the entire island in its short 101km distance.
While the general classification will be out of their reach the race will be, as ever, dominated by the sprinters. There are a few small climbs littered along the route, where teams can turn the screw on their rivals. The latter part of the race also takes in a number of costal routes, allowing the canniest of teams to make the most of the sea winds.
In the past, Andrea Guardini has been the benchmark for the fast men, with 12 stage victories in the last three years, but he seemed out of sorts in 2013. Challenging him this season will be Theo Bos (Belkin), who won two stages last year and Aidis Kruopis (Orica-GreenEDGE).
Stage 4 from Subang to Genting Highlands will be the key stage for anyone looking for general classification victory. The winner on this day has almost always gone on to take overall success.