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Saxo Bank among ProTour teams headed to Le Tour de Langkawi

Malaysian Minister of Youth and Sports YB Khairy Jamaluddin unveiled the 1,506.5km course for the 19th edition of Le Tour de Langkawi to be held over 10 stages from February 27 on Langkawi island to March 8 in Kuala Terengganu.

Unlike recent Chinese races, the organizers of LTdL insist that about half of the field hail from Asia, but the race also welcomes foreign teams. Chief Operating Officer Emir Abdul Jalal announced the unprecedented participation of three teams: Saxo Bank, Caja Rural and Team Colombia, the latter having already scheduled the Malaysian event for their leader Fabio Duarte, who was second to Vincenzo Nibali in the queen stage of the 2013 Giro d'Italia at the Tre Cime di Lavaredo.

While the list of the starting teams is yet to be released, five to eight Pro Teams are expected to take part in 2014, at least matching the five which attended this year.

Launched in Putrajaya, the home of Malaysian government, the event will mark the return to the country's capital Kuala Lumpur, with stage 3 ending on Dataran Merdeka, where the race used to finish from 1998 to 2011. In recent years, the East Coast state of Terengganu has hosted both the race's finish and the only Malaysian Continental Team.

"It's going to be a good race for the sprinters," said Terengganu's Anuar Manan, who is the only Malaysian to have won a stage (in 2010) in Le Tour de Langkawi since its inception in 1996.

"I foresee eight or nine possible bunch sprints. I'd love to win one of the last two stages in Kuala Terengganu because it is my hometown, but many sprinters will target stage 3 to Kuala Lumpur." What follows the sprinters' top stage will be the traditional queen stage up to Genting Highland. The queen stage typically determines the overall winner.

Le Tour de Langkawi (LTdL) opened the doors of Pro Team Trek to Colombian climber Julian Arredondo, who won the race this year for Japanese continental outfit Nippo-De Rosa. For 2014, the race's tagline is "The Heat is Back", and the race also got a new logo because according to Khairy, "The previous one was ugly and not up to international standards."

"LTdL has been dubbed as the hottest annual race in Asia, run under immense tropical heat, with passionate cycling fans lined-up along the route," said the recently appointed Sports Minister. "LTdL is not only known as racing under the intense heat and the hard climb up to Genting Highlands. It is also known that the race receives the warmest welcome and support from all Malaysians. For Asian riders, LTdL is a platform to showcase their talent against the best in the world."

As a proof of the success of the event, Malaysian National Cycling Federation president Datuk Hj Abu Samah Abd Wahab handed over to the Sports Minister a certificate recognizing the "excellent level of organization" issued to the organizers by the UCI for the fourth consecutive year.

2014 Le Tour de Langkawi
Thursday, February17 : Stage 1 - Langkawi round island, 101.1km
Friday, February 28: Stage 2 - Sungai Petani-Taiping, 132.5km
Saturday, March 1: Stage 3 - Kampar-Kuala Lumpur, 166.5km
Sunday, March 2: Stage 4 - MAS Subang-Genting Highlands, 110.9km
Monday, March 3: Stage 5 - Karak-Rembau, 139.3km
Tuesday, March 4: Stage 6 - Melaka-Pontian Kechil, 199.1km
Wednesday, March 5: Stage 7 - Kota Tinggi-Pekan, 230.1km
Thursday, March 6: Stage 8 - Kuantan-Marang, 202.6km
Friday, March 7: Stage 9 - Bandar Permaisuri-Kuala Terengganu, 109.7km
Saturday, March 8: Stage 10 - Tasik Kenyir-Kuala Terengganu, 114.7km

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