6th Tour de Langkawi - 2.3
Malaysia, February 6-18, 2001
Stage 0 - February 4: Langkawi - Langkawi, 64.4 km
Lanfranchi stamps authority in prelude
By Mark Cassley-Sharon, cyclingnews.com correspondent
The Mapei-Quickstep team marked its return to the Tour de Langkawi after a year's absence, in spectacular style with team leader Paolo Lanfranchi winning the 64.4 kilometre Langkawi Classic alone. The 33 year old time's of 1:34.43 put him five seconds ahead of fellow Italian Francesco Secchiari of rival team Saeco, and 17 seconds ahead of teammate Dario Cioni. Malaysia's Robert Lee 6th place gave the host nations an all-important top ten finish
All in all Mapei managed to put 3 of its four-man team in the top 10 of the event, the unofficial prologue to the Tour de Langkawi. Mercury-Viatel, which won last year's Tour could manage only 7th place thanks to the last ditch efforts of stalwart Henk Vogels of Australia.
In conditions which were hot and humid even by Malaysia's standards many riders were hoping for an easy ride, culminating in a sprint finish. Saeco's Jörg Ludewig of Germany put paid to that. After teasing the peloton with a number of fake breaks, he finally made his move with 20 kilometers gone. As Mercury's Gordon Fraser said, "he was 20 metres up the road, and then he was gone. We suddenly had to start working to get people up to him".
Ludewig's wake-up call galvanized rival teams into action. He was soon joined by other riders and by 50 kilometres gone each of the major teams had at least one man in the break. The peloton took this as a sign to ease up leaving the break to decide things for themselves. With this the prediction of a mass sprint was looking doubtful, particularly as most of the favoured sprinters, such as Ivan Quaranta (Alexia Alluminio) and Massimo Strazzer (Mobilvetta) were still in the peloton.
With 10 kilometres to go to the finish in Kuah, Lanfranchi broke away with Secchiari, Cioni, Australian Nathan O'Neill and Ludewig. Lanfranchi's strength proved too much and each of his companions fell away in the closing kilometers to give him time to glide across the line with his hands aloft.
Thanks to his team's efforts Lanfranchi will now wear the yellow jersey of race leader when Stage 1 of the Tour de Langkawi leaves Alor Setar on Tuesday. Mapei's effort throws down the gauntlet to Mercury, who will want to prove that their win last year was in spite of, not because of Mapei's absence. Mapei on the other hand have already the won the five year-old event three times.
The Tour de Langkawi itself has now been given a 2.3 rating by the UCI, and with prize money totaling US $400,000 it easily justifies its status as the fourth biggest cycle race in the world.
The first week of the event, which covers over 1600 kilometres, will take the riders from the west coast to the east, skimming the Thai border, before heading south almost to Singapore. The mountain stages are being saved for the second week with stage in each of the Cameron and Genting Highlands. The latter boasts the steepest climb of any professional cycle race in the world. The race finishes in Kuala Lumpur on Sunday 18 February.
For many teams it will be an early season tester of training and technique, but a combination of competition, terrain and the tropical weather will ensure that no one will be taking it easy.
1 Paolo Lanfranchi (Ita) Mapei - Quick Step 1.34.43 (40.8 km/h) 2 Francesco Secchiari (Ita) Saeco Macchine per Caffe 0.05 3 Dario David Cioni (Ita) Mapei - Quick Step 0.17 4 Nathan O'Neill (Aus) Ceramiche Panaria Fiordo 0.26 5 Jörg Ludewig (Ger) Saeco Macchine per Caffe 0.41 6 Robert Lee (Mas) Malaysia 7 Henk Vogels (Aus) Mercury Viatel 8 René Haselbacher (Aut) Team Gerolsteiner 9 Graeme Miller (NZl) Telekom Malaysia 10 Pedro Horrilo Munoz (Spa) Mapei - Quick Step 11 Allan Johansen (Den) Team Fakta 12 Stefano Guerrini (Ita) Ceramiche Panaria Fiordo 13 Hans De Meester (Bel) Collstrop-Palmans 14 Christopher Fisher (USA) Saturn 15 Jens Voigt (Ger) Credit Agricole 16 Trent Klasna (USA) Saturn 17 Laurent Estadieu (Fra) AG2R Prevoyance 18 Russel Van Hout (Aus) Selle Italia-Pacific 19 Fortunato Baliani (Ita) Selle Italia-Pacific 1.00 20 Emanuele Negrini (Ita) Cantina Tollo-Acqua & Sapone 2.38 21 Jacobus Loubser (RSA) South Africa 2.39 22 Cesare Di Cintio (Ita) Cantina Tollo-Acqua & Sapone 2.42 23 David Fernandez Domingo (Spa) Colchon Relax-Fuenlabrada 5.24 24 Ken Hashikawa (Jpn) Japan 9.35 25 Yajun Ma (Chn) China 26 Xuezhong Tang (Chn) China 27 Musairi Musa (Mas) Telekom Malaysia 9.39 28 Mohd. Hardi Razali (Mas) Malaysia 9.42 29 Gordon Fraser (Can) Mercury Viatel 9.45 30 Jacob Erker (Can) Canada 12.35 Courtesy of www.tdl.com.my