The German sprinter spent the first four years of his career with Team Sunweb, but has moved to the South African team – which is now under the management of Bjarne Riis – for a new challenge.
He made the perfect start on Thursday, producing a powerful sprint to raise his arms in Kota Kinabalu at the end of the 86.7km warm-up race.
His teammates Samuele Battistella and Dylan Sunderland had spent eight of the nine laps of the 9.6km circuit in the breakaway, but the race came back for a bunch sprint and Walscheid got the better of Harrif Salleh (TSG Terengganu) and Blake Quick (St George Continental).
"I’m super happy about winning directly on the first try but, even more, we did a super great effort as team," Walscheid said.
"We had two riders in the break and we were always in control of the race. Those two guys also participated very well in the lead-out, so we took the race from the front and we won. We can be proud."
Given its not a UCI-categorised race, the victory will not officially count in the eyes of many, but it nevertheless breed confidence and sets Walscheid up for what could be a fruitful week in Malaysia.
Of the eight stages that make up the race proper – which has ProSeries status in 2020 – five could well end in bunch sprints. Along with Salleh and Quick, the 26-year-old's chief competition is set to come from Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec’s Matteo Pelucchi, who was fourth in the Criterium.
The race stays on the island of Borneo for the largely flat opening stage in Kuching on Friday, before transferring to Peninsular Malaysia for the rest of the week.
As well as Walscheid, in Louis Meintjes NTT have a strong candidate for the overall title, which is set to be shaped by the summit finish at Genting Highlands on stage 4.
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