Stage 3: Temerloh - Kuala Lumpur
Germany’s Max Walscheid (NTT Pro Cycling) outsprinted Italy’s Riccardo Minali (Nippo-Delko-One Provence) to win stage 3 of Le Tour de Langkawi at the foot of the Petronas Twin Towers of Kuala Lumpur. Kazakhstani Yevgeniy Fedorov retained the lead before the ascent of the gruelling climb to Genting Highlands on Monday.
"It’s a great atmosphere here with the Twin Towers behind me," Walscheid said, the giant twin skyscrapers in the background of the podium in central Kuala Lumpur.
"I’m very glad to be on the top step of this stage. We showed a good effort to bring the peloton back together after the climb. We needed all the resources to make it a bunch sprint, therefore I’m super happy to finish it off."
Seven riders took off after Ahmet Örken (Sapura) won the first intermediate sprint ahead of Malaysians Harrif Saleh and Ameer Kamal after just nine kilometres of racing. They included Matteo Pelucchi (Bardiani-CSF), Johan Le Bon (B&B-Vital Concept), Rylee Field (Bridgelane), Bernard Van Aert (PGN), Alistair Donohoe (ARA Sunshine Coast), Giorgios Bouglas (SSIOS Miogee) and Nur Aiman Zariff (Sapura).
Pelucchi eventually sat up and Vino Astana Motors - the team of race leader Fedorov, kept the group at a respectable distance, with a maximum time difference of 3:40 recorded after 100km of racing.
Nur Aiman again focused on the red jersey during the breakaway and collected the King of the Mountain points for second place atop the category 1 climb of Genting Sempah after Field crested the climb alone in the lead. The Australian repeated his solo breakaway attempt, only to be caught by Quentin Pacher (B&B Hotels-Vital Concept) and Pierpaolo Ficara (Sapura) with 15km to go. However NTT Pro Cycling drove the reunited peloton to make sure it a bunch sprint finish. The peloton came back together with just two kilometres to race.
"I was really proud of seeing Louis Meintjes also riding at the front of the bunch for me," Walscheid said. "He’s our leader for GC. Tomorrow I’ll support him as good as possible. This is a very nice race. We want to win it."
NTT Pro Cycling will have to take the leader's jersey from Fedorov, with Meintjes riding with seven stitches in a cut he suffered in a crash on stage 2.
"We’ve tried to control the race from the start until the bottom of the hill today because we wanted to keep the yellow jersey for tomorrow," Fedorov explained, admitting his limitations on the long climbs.
"I know Genting Highlands from Le Tour de Langkawi last year. Maybe tomorrow we’ll have another leader in the team because I’m not a pure climber."
The early climb of this year's race has indicated that Pierre Rolland and Pacher (B&B Hotels-Vital Concept), Ficara (Sapura), Drew Morey, Metkel Eyob and Carlos Quintero (TSG Terengganu) are reading to challenge Meintjes and NTT Pro Cycling.
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