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UnitedHealthcare trio target overall victory at Tour de Langkawi

The UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling team believe they have only just begun to leave an imprint on the Tour de Langkawi by helping American sprinter John Murphy to win Friday’s third stage.

The American registered team now have their sights set on going for overall victory. That was the intent declared by the American team’s directeur sportif Hendrik Redant on Friday, even before Murphy won the 107km third stage from Kulim to Kuala Kangsar.

Going into Saturday’s Queen stage, the 129.4km fourth leg from Ipoh to Tanah Rata in the Cameron Highlands, Redant has three riders whose climbing prowess will be used in a three-pronged attack on their rivals, including the Astana team of major overall contender Miguel Angel Lopez.

“We have one of our best teams here. We sort of have a mix,” Redant told Cyclingnews before Friday’s third stage, where Murphy ticked off one of the team’s boxes by winning the bunch sprint.

For Saturday’s big stage, Redant has three aces to play – Australian Jonathan Clarke, Slovenian Janez Brajkovic and Colombian Daniel Jaramillo.

Jaramillo (17th), Brajkovic (20th overall) and Clarke (29th) are all 22 seconds down on race leader Andrea Guardini (Astana), and in the same time as the overall favourite, Miguel Angel Lopez.

“We have the three guys who can play the game on the Cameron Highlands,” Redant said. “That’s the plan. We are challenging the [Astana] guys. Our main goal is to win the overall and we have three of our best climbers in this team.”

However, Redant, who believe he has “one of the strongest teams” in the race, still expects the stage to be a tactically challenging one for his charges.

Asked if he expects all eyes will be on UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling to act, Redant said: “Not only our guys, but there are few like Lopez that will be really good.

"The climb [in the Cameron Highlands] is not the same as [the] Genting Highlands [which does not feature in this year's race – ed.] At Genting you can really make a difference.

“Here it must still be very good rider if he wants to go alone. If not, there will be a small group and it will be decided over the last five days of the race. But my plan is to be one of the protagonists in the race. It’s normal when you have three really good climbers with you.

"We are going to try to control the race until the climb and see what happens, but it’s going to be a challenge. There will be a few others – I won’t name names – we have to take care of. At that time, maybe our advantage will be that we are not alone and we should have three guys in that group who can play their own hand. We will see.”

Redant does not play down the significance of a Tour de Langkawi win for a UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling team that is focussing on races in Asia and the United States this season.

“Our sponsor is indeed mainly interested in America, so I am talking about the Tour of California, Utah and all those races [in the US] …,” Redant said.

“That’s one of our biggest goals, but of course we have quite a few Asian sponsors. That’s important, so we have [to do well in races like] the Tour de Langkawi.”

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Rupert Guinness first wrote on cycling at the 1984 Victorian road titles in Australia from the finish line on a blustery and cold hilltop with a few dozen supporters. But since 1987, he has covered 26 Tours de France, as well as numerous editions of the Giro d'Italia, Vuelta a Espana, classics, world track and road titles and other races around the world, plus four Olympic Games (1992, 2000, 2008, 2012). He lived in Belgium and France from 1987 to 1995 writing for Winning Magazine and VeloNews, but now lives in Sydney as a sports writer for The Sydney Morning Herald (Fairfax Media) and contributor to Cyclingnews and select publications.

An author of 13 books, most of them on cycling, he can be seen in a Hawaiian shirt enjoying a drop of French rosé between competing in Ironman triathlons.