ALOR SETAR, Feb 13 -- The 25th edition of the Le Tour de Langkawi (LTdL) has been a boon to national cyclist Mohd Harrif Saleh as he clinched stage seven from Dewan Datuk Haji Ahmad Badawi in Bagan to Menara Alor Setar here today for his second win.
The Terengganu Inc TSG Cycling Team sprint specialist, who also won stage five from Kuala Kubu Bharu to Ipoh two days ago, was in a league of his own after edging two other sprinters, Italian Matteo Pelucchi and Taj Jones from Australia, to finish first in the 130.4km race.
Pelucchi, representing Bardiani CSF Faizane, and Jones of Australia's Ara Pro Racing Sunshine Coast finished second and third respectively in the race, which was held in blistering heat of 33 degrees Celsius.
The race commissaire awarded a common time of 2 hours 53 minutes and 17 seconds to the top 10 riders who crossed the finish line in a sprint bunch.
Today's victory saw Mohd Harrif, fondly known as ‘Mamat’ among teammates, emerging as Malaysia's best rider in LTdL history with a total of three stage wins.
The Kuala Terengganu-born lad had previously won stage two from Dataran Senawang to Melaka last year.
"Thank God, I didn't think I could win today. My teammates were very helpful in pushing me forward to sprint to the finish line.
"I noticed the road today was both flat and undulating so there were opportunities for me or any other sprinters. The enthusiasm and strong support of my teammates inspired me," Mohd Harrif said when met by reporters.
At the same time, Mohd Harrif, who has been participating in the LTdL since the 2008 edition, is optimistic about claiming the green jersey as the best sprinter from German rider Maximilian Richard Walscheid of world touring team NTT Pro Cycling Team in the final stage tomorrow.
Walscheid, who has won the green jersey since the third stage in Kuala Lumpur, still leads the category with 47 points, followed by Jones (45 points) and Mohd Harrif (42 points) after seven races.
Meanwhile, TSG Cycling Team head coach Jeremy Hunt was delighted with the splendid performance by Mohd Harrif, who proved his mettle competing against the top sprinters from the world teams and the pro teams.
"The performance of the local teams has been superb; they support each other and are getting better and better. I can see Mohd Harrif does not rush in the bunch sprint and know when to make an attack to the finish line.
"Mohd Harrif's performance is very good, and despite being a good sprinter, we still can harness his capability and after working with each other for so many years, we can see his improvements," according to Hunt, a former British road racing cyclist.
The eighth and final stage tomorrow covers a distance of 108.5km around the island of Langkawi (loop race), offering three sprint zones namely Telaga Harbour, third passage and sixth passage, as well as seven climb zones, five zones along the Langkawi Expressway and one each at Ampang Look and Telaga Harbour.
Malaysia National News Agency
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