Saul's Malaysian Raisin d'être

So tell me Saul...

So tell me Saul... (Image credit: Shane Goss)

By Anthony Tan in Segamat

Speaking about Saul's raison d'être at the Le Tour de Langkawi, which has so far seen him win a classic stage to Cameron Highlands last Sunday and purposefully defend team-mate Francesco Bellotti's third position overall, which he holds on a knife's edge over Walter Pedraza (Selle Italia Diquigiovanni) and Cesar Grajales (Navigators Insurance) - just one second separates all three riders - the 23 year-old now admits he was being a little coy about his form when we first spoke to him a day before the race began.

"I was playing coy with you," said Raisin with a boyish grin.

"Well, I knew I was stronger than I was last year at this time of year, a lot stronger than I was last year. And last year I was thirteenth up Genting, so that kind of gave me an idea of where I might stack up in the race."

On Tuesday's stage to the Genting Highlands, the American improved five places to finish eighth best up the torturous climb, and he now lies in eleventh overall after eight stages. Given that he was riding for Bellotti on that day, the young American could well have done even better than that had he been given carte blanche by his team. However, Raisin says he's been happy to ride for another team-mate in this race, as his main goal lies further down the track at the 2006 Giro d'Italia, where he will adopt a co-leadership role with the Bellotti.

"Yeah, a lot happens in a year. I had a full year of racing last year, and even with a full year of racing, I crashed, broke my hip and had a whole month [off] with injury - so last year, I don't think I reached my full potential for the period I'm at now," he said.

"So hopefully, if I can stay healthy this year, I can progress even more. A year does make a big difference, especially since I'm still only 23, my body's still changing, so who knows... "

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