It was a smaller bunch that rolled out for the penultimate day at Tour de Langkawi as illness had ripped through the peloton on Thursday night, with suspected food poisoning the most likely cause for the mass exodus from the race. Ten riders in all failed to either start or finish the stage with Orica GreenEdge, Blanco, Astana, Europcar, UnitedHealthcare and a number of other teams all reporting stomach ailments of varying degrees.
Orica GreenEdge has been one of the worst affected in final few days of the race after Aidis Kruopis was forced to withdraw in the early part of Thursday's stage after crashing inside the opening kilometres. The Australian squad was delivered more bad news on Friday morning with Wesley Sulzberger and Luke Durbridge failing to sign on.
Team director Matt Wilson told Cyclingnews that Durbridge and Sulzberger had been sick throughout the night prior to stage 9.
Kruopis' injuries had also been assessed with the Lithuanian sprinter in better condition than had been originally feared. Kruopis pulled himself off the ground after crashing, but with a bloodied left arm and damage to his left knee, it became immediately apparent that he would not be finishing the race. He had been a consistent finisher in the bunch sprints, picking up three third-place finishes before being forced out.
"He landed directly on his knee and immediately he couldn't bend it at all and thought he couldn't continue," Wilson told Cyclingnews.
"Getting back to the hotel [last night], he hasn't broken anything, he's ok. We have our doctor here who checked him out and said: 'he's ok', [gave him] a couple of stitches and that was it. He's still here but is heading back to the hotel."
The team was started the second-to-last stage with just three riders: Pieter Weening, who lies in second-overall, Travis Meyer and Stage 9 podium finisher Allan Davis.
The supposed food poisoning also saw neo-pro Steele Von Hoff (Garmin Sharp) fail to finish the stage into Kuala Berang while his teammate Caleb Fairly was unable to start. Stage 6 winner Tom Leezer (Blanco), teammate Jos Van Emden reduced the Dutch team to three after having lost Theo Bos.
Points leader Andrea Guardini (Astana) appeared a reluctant starter and did not contest the sprint at the end of the stage. Francesco Chicchi's (Vini Fantini) second place sees him move to within five points of taking the jersey from the 12-time stage winner.
The remaining riders failing to start were: John Murphy (UnitedHealthcare), Cyrille Gautier (Europcar) and Takeaki Ayabe (Aisan Racing Team).