23rd FEBRUARY 2017
GERIK : American outfit Unitedhealthcare continued its winning streak at Le Tour de Langkawi with Travis McCabe outsprinting Filippo Pozzato and Ryan Gibbons who became the new race leader on the slightly downhill finish in Gerik in the state of Perak in northern Malaysia. They previously won a stage in 2014 with Bradley White and in 2016 with John Murphy.
Exactly like Murphy one year ago, McCabe lined up at LTdL fresh from a stage win at the Herald Sun Tour in Australia. “We came here with the ambition to win”, the American sprinter said at the post-race press conference. “We really wanted to work on the lead out train that we have. I wasn’t trying to fill the shoes of Murphy but it’s great to do the same as him. For me, today, it was all about patience. We showed yesterday that we had the lead out train and the power to take me to the line but I made a mistake by going way too early. Today I went into a small break before the category 1 climb to make it easier when Manzana really hit it on the climb.”
It was a long but eventful day of racing from the East Coast to the jungle via the Titiwangsa Range. It started with a crash involving Pozzato and taking Terengganu’s sprinter Harrif Saleh out of the race as he hit a rock. 49 kilometres were covered in the first hour, making it impossible for anyone to escape from the peloton but a group of 16 riders eventually rode away but the presence of the likes of Jacques Janse van Rensburg (Dimension Data), Bernardo Suaza (Manzana-Postobon) and Robbie Hucker (IsoWhey Sports Swisswellness) forced Androni Giocattoli to chase. Attracted by the King of the Mountains competition after losing hopes of winning the overall classification after a crash in stage 1, John Ebsen (Infinite AIS) went on his own 90km before the finish in order to score important points atop Titiwangsa. The selective terrain reduced the bunch to fifty riders only.
Italy’s Pozzato was close to add his name to the record of stage winners at Gerik after his prestigious compatriots Gianni Bugno in 1997 and Rinaldo Nocentini in 1999 but McCabe outclassed him at the very end of a tight finish. “My day started with a crash while I was in the middle of road at the back of the peloton in order to not risk anything”, Pozzato explained.
“But someone bumped into me after losing control of his handlebar and I fell on my face. My head was shocked by the crash but my legs were going much better than yesterday after the traveling. In the finale I wanted to anticipate the sprint because I’m not as fast as these guys.
But the Unitedhealthcare riders have done a great job as they rode strongly from 1.2km to the end. There was no space for me to attack. When they opened it for their sprinter, I exited on the right side of the road. I hesitated a bit but at the end he was faster than me. It’s a pity because I would have liked to break the ice and take a first victory this year, especially for the team. They need some results after the good work done since the beginning of the year. We’ll try again.”
Third on the line, Gibbons took over from Scott Sunderland in the lead of the overall ranking. “I had a bike change due to a mechanical at about 60km to go”, the South African revealed. “It had a 53 on and I couldn’t get it down to the 11 [gear]. I had a perfect lead out. I thought it was no problem to come round him but I had no speed. I’m disappointed not to win but I’m happy to be in the yellow jersey. It sounds like an excuse but I think I’m quicker than these guys and I want to prove it in the coming days.”
Stage 3 is expected to be a good one for the sprinters, being relatively short (118km) from Serdang to Pantai Remis.
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