Astana's Andrea Guardini is the most prolific stage winner of Tour de Langkawi history, and aims to add to his tally of 18 victories in this week's 21st edition of the Malaysian race. Back for his sixth year in a row, fresh off the Dubai Tour and Tours of Qatar and Oman, the Italian is hoping to find his first win of the season.
“I’m happy to be back to Malaysia. There are a lot of good stages for me and the weather is really nice," Guardini said at the opening press conference. "I expect a lot of work to do for Astana but we won’t be able to do all the work, so I hope for other teams to contribute to chasing breakaways down.
"I haven’t set any particular goal for myself in terms of victories. It’s true that I hold the record here with 18 stage wins but no win is easy to get. Year after year, I can see this race growing. I’m not the only sprinter here. There are a lot of young fast sprinters, several Italian sprinters and I can see that Anuar [Manan] is skinnier than last year."
Indeed, Manan had a solid season so far, with a pair of wins in the Jelajah Malaysia in December. He is the only Malaysian to win a stage in Langkawi, which often attracts a handful of WorldTour teams in addition to a strong line-up of Pro Continental squads.
Defending overall champion Yousef Reguigui is competing at the African Continental Championships and will miss the race, but his Dimension Data squad comes with new South African champion Jaco Venter, who noted that the team had no designated leader.
"We’re under pressure to win Le Tour de Langkawi again but there’s no clear favourite for GC so we’ll firstly focus on stage wins with Reinhardt [Janse van Rensburg]," Venter said.
Another notable name in the race is Matthew Goss. The former Milan-San Remo winner joined the British ONE Pro Cycling squad, and it will be the first time the Australian has taken part in the Tour de Langkawi. "Le Tour de Langkawi is a race I’ve always looked at during my career and I always wanted to do it," he said. "Finally I get an opportunity with One Pro Cycling and there’ll be a lot of opportunities for sprinting here in the next eight days."
The eight-stage Tour de Langkawi begins on Wednesday in Kangar. With the Genting Highlands finish absent again this year, the race's main difficulty will be the fourth stage to Cameron Highlands.