On Malaysia’s version of the Champs Élysées, Drapac-Porsche’s StuartShaw decided to take a punt on himself and in doing so, came away withvictory in the final stage of the Tour de Langkawi.
Predictably on Sunday in Kuala Lumpur, overnight leader José Rujano(ISD-Neri) was safeguarded by his team the entire stage that wentwithout a hitch for the 28-year-old Venezuelan.
The ISD Neri rider finished on the same time with stage winnerStuart Shaw, who covered the 133.7-kilometre (83.14 miles) course from KualaKubu Baru to the capital Kuala Lumpur in 3hr 01mins 00sec.
Afterhis win in the Vuelta a Tachira in January, overall victory in the racemarks the second stepping stone en route to his number one season goal:the 2010 Giro d’Italia.
"I am very happy to win this (yellow)jersey and this victory is very important for my new team. It also agreat boost for my confidence," he said.
An operation on hisappendix three months prior and domestique duties for mountains winnerPeter McDonald – who only took the polka-dot jersey competition on thefinal day’s racing from Rujano – kept the stage winner Shaw at bay for most of the week.
Butwith that task complete after the second-to-last mountain prime of the133.7-kilometre leg from Kuala Kubu Baru, it became time for theCanberran to start thinking about the final sprint in KL’s MerdekaSquare.
“I came over here just to help the guys. [I’ve] beengetting water bottles – even today, up till 15k to go, I was gettingwater bottles and helping the guys, with Peter for the king of themountains and that sort of stuff,” Shaw told Cycling Central.
“Iwas actually trying to help [team-mate] Adiq [Othman] at the front andlost him a bit. I just got good position for the sprint and I wasfeeling all right, so I thought I’d have a bit of a crack at it.
“Iwas strong enough to move up into good position, and with about 150[metres] to go I knew I was going to have a chance to sprint. And Iknow if I get near the end of sprint, there’s not many guys that aregoing to beat me,” said Shaw, whose celebration was perhaps the mostanimated all week.
For Rujano, just how much of a test was it?
Withjust one ProTour team fronting up to what was once the biggest and mostprestigious cycling race in Asia, including a pair of Pro Continentalsquads, the 15th edition of the Tour de Langkawi saw arguably one ofthe weakest fields in years.
So, without taking anything awayfrom Rujano’s superb effort Saturday to Genting Highlands, where by thesummit, he distanced himself from the second placegetter and eventualsecond overall, Gong Hyo Suk (Seoul Cycling) by a margin of twominutes, exactly how good an indicator his Langkawi victory is in termsof what we can expect from him this May is a question worth asking.
“Eventhis year, the rhythm of the race was very high because many riderswere in good condition, and Asian riders are improving, with betterlegs year after year,” said Rujano.
The day before, Rujanohimself even admitted the three stage races he’s entered and won sinceJune last year were significantly tougher than this seven-day looparound the Malaysian peninsula – so let’s see how he fares in the nexttwo months before drawing any bold conclusions.
“I’m very happywith the condition I have now,” Rujano said. “Now I have two months togo to improve it before the Tour of Italy.”
McDonald: “As good as I could’ve gone”
Onecould say Korean Gong, naturally the best Asian rider, was therevelation of the race. And if it hadn’t been for the lanky24-year-old’s superlative effort on Genting, McDonald would have stoodon the podium behind the actual third placegetter, Hossein Askari(Tabriz Petrochemical), a stalwart and consistent GC performer on theAsian racing circuit, who finished 42 seconds clear of McDonald on GC.
“Upthe hill, you can only go as fast as your legs will let you go. So whenyou’re doing a tour with a hill like [Genting Highlands], basicallyit’s going to decide who’s going to win, who’s going to come second,third…
“There’s no hiding, there’s no sitting in the slipstreamor anything like that, so it’s as good as I could’ve gone,” McDonaldtold Cycling Central.
“To win the jersey was good for me. Imean, I missed out on the podium, but if I missed out on taking thejersey as well, then I would have been really disappointed. To get thejersey, that’s something more – fourth, fifth, sixth, that doesn’tmatter. As long as you take home the jersey, that’s probably betterthan those minor placings.”
The growth of cycling in Asia alsofoiled the efforts of another Australian, Michael Matthews(Jayco-Skins), who lost the points competition to local hero AnuarManan (Geusman Ginseng Asia).
Like stage winner Shaw, the19-year-old is a Canberra native, and between them they took three outof the seven stages on offer. After four stages, Matthews did look likehe would take the green sprinters’ jersey back home to Oz with him, butManan’s consistency and fifth stage victory proved to be the youngAussie’s undoing, eventually finishing 21 points behind the first Asianrider ever to win the competition of fast-twitch fibres.
Combined,the Iranian-backed Tabriz Petrochemical team was strongest on the stageto Genting, taking home both the overall team and Asian teamclassification.
Stage 7: 133.7km, Kuala Kubu Baru - Dataran Merdeka.
1Stuart Shaw (Aus) Drapac Porsche Cycling 3:01:00, 2 Vidal Celis (Spa)Footon-Servetto, 3 René Haselbacher (Aut) Vorarlberg - Corratec, 4Anuar Manan (Mas) Geumsan Ginseng Asia, 5 Ruslan Tleubayev (Kaz)Kazakhstan National Team, 6 Tobias Erler (Ger) Tabriz PetrochemicalCycling Team, 7 Alex Candelario (USA) Kelly Benefit Strategies, 8Pierpaolo De Negri (Ita) ISD - Neri, 9 Hossein Nateghi (IRI) AzadUniversity Iran, 10 Richard Lang (Aus) Team Jayco - Skins.
Final general classification:
1José Rujano (Ven) ISD - Neri 24:07:58, 2 Hyo Suk Gong (Kor)Seoul Cycling 0:02:07, 3 Hossein Askari (IRI) Tabriz PetrochemicalCycling Team 0:02:39, 4 Peter McDonald (Aus) Drapac Porsche Cycling0:03:21, 5 Amir Zargari (IRI) Azad University Iran 0:04:13, 6 MarkusEibegger (Aut) Footon-Servetto 0:04:54, 7 Alexandr Shushemoin (Kaz)Kazakhstan National Team, 8 Matthias Brandle (Aut) Footon-Servetto0:04:58, 9 Ghader Mizbani (IRI) Tabriz Petrochemical Cycling Team0:05:10, 10 Ahad Kazemi (IRI) Tabriz Petrochemical Cycling Team 0:05:46.