Unibet.com for le Tour de Langkawi

Rujano in 2005

Rujano in 2005 (Image credit: Daniel Simms)

Newest among the ProTour teams, Unibet.com, will contest the 12th edition of Le Tour de Langkawi on February 2 to 11. A very international team based in Belgium and registered in Sweden, features a line-up of riders from three continents.

Given its ProTour status on December 9, the team is managed by former Tour de France rider Jacques Hanegraaf, who comes back to Malaysia, previously appearing with Palmans-Collstrop and then MrBookmaker.

Last week, having started their season successfully in Australia's Tour Down Under, where Baden Cooke got a stage win, Unibet.com will enter Langkawi with the hope of attacking from all angles and have Venezuelan climber José Rujano as their leader for Asia's biggest race.

"We are coming to Malaysia with a José Rujano as team leader. Rujano was in Europe already in our training camp in Belicasim, Spain on January 5 to 16," said Hanegraaf. "Rujano showed decent form during this training camp already. His main goal for this season will be the Giro d'Italia.

"But he has trained enough already to get a good classification in Le Tour de Langkawi. We still have to see in which condition he is exactly before we can announce the goal for him at Langkawi."

Rujano is best remembered in Malaysia for his second placed finish in the Genting stage to eventual champion Ryan Cox in 2005. He also finished second in the overall classification behind Cox that year, but rose in the Giro d'Italia two months later where he won the mountains classification as well as finishing a close third in the general classification behind Paolo Savoldelli and Gilberto Simoni.

"But we also have our main prospect from Colombia, in 21 year-old Rigoberto Uran. He is the most talented Colombian rider in the history of cycling, which includes Luis Herrera, who won the king of the mountains in the Tour de France during Bernard Hinault's era in the 80s and Fabio Parra, who finished third in 1988," continued Hanegraaf.

"We have given him a three-year contract because we believe that he is the future of cycling. We put a lot of confidence in him. He's one of the best young riders you can find all over the world. He's good not only in the climbs, but also on the flat roads and in time trials.

"During the training camp in Spain, Uran was riding alone at 60 km/h with the rest of the team behind him, struggling on his wheel. He's physiological tests are extraordinary. So, for Le Tour de Langkawi we are sending a team of good climbers and guys who are good on the flat and sprinters. We have a balanced team, including Russian sprinters who will go for the stage wins."

That Russian is the talented Sergey Kolesnikov, winner of the Tour of Hainan in China in November and who comes into Le Tour de Langkawi on the back of a good performance in the UCI track World Cup in Los Angeles, where he won the bronze medal in the points race.

Unibet.com's line-up for Le Tour de Langkawi: José Rujano (Ven), Rigoberto Uran (Col), Sergey Kolesnikov (Rus), Alexander Khatuntsev (Rus), Niels Scheuneman (Ned), Stijn Vandenbergh (Bel).

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